Category Archives: accessories

Four months later

Back in January, as I embarked on the busiest and arguably my most stressful semester thus far, I started a pair of Sanquhar gloves. Because naturally, when you have lots of stress, the best response is to add a comparable amount of stress to your knitting. As it happens, I got about 75% through them in January but then set them aside for more portable projects, and they sat long enough by the wayside that I became worried they would enter the eternally despondent land of Unfinished Objects, never again to return to the friendly grove of Works in Progress.

Thankfully, this was not their fate. I picked them up again last week and finished the rest of the second glove, and lo, they are beautiful.

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Pattern: Sanquhar Gloves, instructions by Tata & Tatao, largely composed of a set of charts and a few English translations from Japanese. (You have got to love the modern knitting world wherein a centuries-old traditional Scottish knitted garment is re-interpreted through pattern instructions in Japanese, then re-fashioned into English translation.
Yarn: A Touch of Twist light fingering weight (270yds per 50g), in dark purple and pale teal, purchased at Rhinebeck 2008.
Needles: 2.0mm steel DPNs.

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The pattern actually directs you to use laceweight and 1.5mm needles – and don’t get me wrong I’d still love to try that – but this would have resulted in gloves too small for my own hands, and in any case I was looking for an excuse to use this bit of my Rhinebeck purchases. (I still have 2 balls of the same yarn remaining, in a pale purple and dark red. Hmmm). Overall it worked quite well, though somewhere between January and May I must have had a gauge shift, because the fingers on the 2nd glove turned out slightly bigger than the first. Happily, this is not very noticeable when they are worn, and in general the pair fit, well, like a glove. (Ho ho ho, I kill me).

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This is, to say the least, an adventurous pattern. One of the main challenges is that because the instructions are English translations from Japanese, they are relatively sparse. However, the charts are quite clear, and the Sanquhar knitting format leaves little room for maneuverability, which is good for interpretation – the ‘blocks’ format of the motif are all the same size and as long as you can keep this consistent, and work at a gauge that will produce a glove of the correct size for you, the pattern will work. Although this is my first time knitting colourwork at such a tiny gauge, once you get the hang of it it is easy to develop a sort of rhythm to it, as is often the case with stranded colourwork.

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The only thing I didn’t quite do properly were the finger gussets – I fully admit that I pretty well fudged those. I would like to try another pair of these sometime in order to give it my 100% and do better. But you know? These still kick ass. I’ll take ‘em. The overall result is an incredibly intricate, light yet warm pair of gloves that nobody else on Earth has. I am actually debating whether to put them into regular Winter rotation come November – they are gorgeous and I would love to show them off, but on the other hand I don’t think I would recover if I lost one, or both.

Thankfully I have the summer to ponder that. Onwards, yes? Yes.

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Filed under accessories, fair isle, fearless knitting, finished object: accessories

Now I can be in 2009

It gives me a great deal of reassurance to know that Kelly is still obsessively knitting Christmas gnomes, because I only just finished the last of my Christmas gift-knitting. Le-voila, a finished pair of Cat Mittens, the first FO of 2009 and the second-last thing I cast on in 2008:

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Pattern: Cat Mittens (scroll down)
Yarn: Drops Alpaca in black and pale blue
Needles: 2.75mm Clover bamboo DPNs
Modifications: None.

Notes: The concept itself is brilliant, and it should come as no surprise these are headed towards P, aka Miss Beatrice the Cat’s mummy. You’ve got to be a cat lover to love these, and I think they will be well-receved.

This pattern is extremely well charted, so all you really have to do is cast on the required sts and then follow it along. I think one of the reasons I dragged my heels on finishing this is because of the need to follow the chart, though – it wasn’t something I could just memorize and take with me in my head, and that’s something I’ve gotten used to doing. But it is quite clearly written, and if you’ve gotten the hang of basic stranded colour-work, you should be fine. Just 2 colours needed, and you could probably grab some solid colour sock yarn sitting around and make these up nicely.

My only real concern with this pattern is that there is no explicit gauge measurement listed. The designer does tell you the anticipated mitten circumference for a certain needle size, but a stitch/row gauge would be helpful. After finishing these I found them running on the small side (bad for me but fine for the intended recipient, her hands are smaller), and after perusing Ravelry I found the same thing was true for many others who had done the pattern. So, if I were to do these again I would definitely go up a needle size and use a slightly squishier, floofy sock yarn like Dream in Color or STR. I see many on Ravelry have used Shi Bui Sock which seems about right. Or perhaps even a DK or sport-weight for extra sturdiness. The Drops Alpaca worked all right for this size but I think is ultimately too thin for anything larger, given how fiddly parts of the mitten are.

I’ve got about 22g of each colour left now, so perhaps there will be some alpaca Endpaper Mitts or similar in my future. In any case I’m just glad to have these done so I can move on to something new! I have just been itching to cast on a sweater after doing nothing but mitts and socks and bitty things for the last month and a half.

Finally, on the crazy update – the Sanqhuar gloves are still awesome, and Glove #1 is completely finished. I love it. Finishing it has given me renewed momentum and I have cast on for #2 immediately.

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Bring on the cold. Knitters can take it.

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I fight crazy with more crazy

So, it’s January, and the first Monday of January, and it’s back to the real world and I am unsurprisingly going back kicking and screaming. The holidays always go by so fast. To add special agony to the lack-of-holidays, I am entering into a semester of the highest teaching load I’ve ever had, and I fully expect to be experiencing moments of full-on whacko.

I think when your brain is going off in a zillion different directions, and you’re looking to your knitting for a distraction, a plain stockinette sock will not do. The knitting needs to be equal to the crazy. I fight life crazy with knitting crazy. In this case, with a stranded colour-work pair of gloves knitted at 12 sts to the inch.

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The pattern is the Sanquhar gloves from here (in the tradition of Scottish Sanquhar knitting, described here), and is more of a collection of charts and basic instructions than a full pattern. Let me tell you, this is the kind of project that rewards skill, intuition, and endurance. I am loving every. single. stitch. Elspeth and I have even been having talk of a Knitalong. Care to join?

It should put things into perspective when I say that my execution of the pattern “only” uses light fingering weight (and not laceweight) and is “only” at a gauge of 12 sts to the inch. As written, these instructions call for a gauge of 14 sts to the inch, but that would be less likely to fit my hand. And because these gloves have been knitted for centuries with the same traditional patterns and the little blocks and motifs within, the easiest way to change the size of these gloves without completely changing the motifs, is to change your gauge and needle size. So at “only” 12 sts to the inch on 2.0 mm needles, these are more likely to fit me than the original instructions.

Also – and I think this is the most hysterical part – even if I wanted to go to a tighter gauge of 13 or 14 sts to the inch, I would need to go down to 1.75 or 1.5mm needles (that’s size 00 or 000 for you ‘Murricans), and (get this) when I went out locally to find such tiny needles in person, they didn’t exist. Not all needle manufacturers make them. (I later went to the internets – said needles are now being sent to me from Elann. I must have them).

The yarn is a very light fingering weight in grabby heathery wool from my Rhinebeck 2008 purchases, procured from the A Touch of Twist booth. I started in on some Daina mittens with it the week I returned, but then discovered that the yarn was too light for those. At 270 yds per 50g, it’s not quite the laceweight that the Sanqhuar pattern asks for, but it’s darned close and a fine substitute at a slightly looser gauge.

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I’m loving them. I sort of want to bite them just to sink my teeth into the knitting because that’s how great it feels to hold this up and look at it and know that I can knit crazy shit like this and it is beautiful. Of course, it is entirely possible that I’ll get to the fingers, make a horrible mistake and have to re-do, but even if I do I think I’ll be OK with that. I had to rip back and re-split for the thumb gusset twice, and I’m still loving this. Today I’m working from home and I keep wanting to slip away from my desk just to look at the glove in progress.

And sometimes, that’s what you need from your knitting.
May your knitting be close by today!

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Best laid plans

Last week I finished the striped gloves, and they turned out suitably pink and brown and stripey:

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They’re perfect for our current temperatures which are hovering in the just-below-and-just-above-freezing range. Not quite as warm as mittens but they’ll do the job nicely for the time being, and are darned cheerful too. I do love that Patons Classic Merino.

After that I did indeed succumb to the Noro sock yarn on Wednesday evening and started in on something with stripes and the Silk Garden Sock, but then the next day I convinced myself it just wasn’t working out and so I pulled it all out only to start on something else on Friday.

This is the Inga Hat, a very attractive free pattern that I noticed last winter but never got around to making. After finishing my gloves I wanted to make a hat with the remaining half-skeins, and since there are many Ravelry users with Inga Hats made out of Patons Classic Merino I thought I’d give it a shot. I wanted something in the same colours but not a repeat of stripes – I’m okay with matching hat & mitts, I just don’t quite want matchy-matchy, if you know what I mean.

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It looks pretty, doesn’t it? The pink and brown are still very nice, and I’m pleased with my selection of red for the stripe at the brim. I’m also pleased with my execution of the braiding at the edge there, since I’d never done that before and it’s nice to build skills every so often.

Well, pretty isn’t everything, sadly. I should have seen Warning Flag #1 when reading the pattern and it said “one size fits all”. Ahahahahahahah. Nothing in knitting is one size fits all, least of all hats, surely we have all learned this by now. I blythely increased my needle size to go from an intended head circumferece of 21″ to 23″ to sit comfortably for me, except I should have known this would alter other things about this hat.

Warning Flag #2 which I completely disregarded until it was too late was the fact that this pattern does not tell you the intended row gauge, only stitch gauge. So while it is entirely possible that if I had not increased the stitch gauge I would not have ended up with a hat 2-3 inches too long, I will really never know for sure since I’m not very clear on how long it was supposed to be in the first place. If you’re familiar with the pattern you’ll know that the decreases mirror the decreasing slope of that diamond pattern, and are thus embedded in the pattern repeat itself which makes it nearly impossible to simply decrease earlier without completely disrupting the pattern.

So at the moment I am stopped here, having just begun the decrease-every-row decreases, and have discovered a sad fate. This lovely project which was going to use up the Gloves leftovers, has eaten through the Chestnut Brown at a faster rate than the Petal Pink, and if I am going to contemplate finishing the hat, I now have to go off and get another ball of Brown of which I will probably end up with 95% still leftover – thus defeating the purpose of using up leftover yarn in the first place.

Sigh. Why, knitting? Why must you come around to kick me in the shins like this? And on a nice weekend no less.

As I see it, I have 3 options:

1) Get more yarn and finish the hat, and if it does not fit never speak of it again.

2) Get more yarn and finish the hat, and if it is too long attempt to block it with a slightly wider brim to achieve a “cloche” hat effect. (This would seem like a good option except for my fear of ending up looking like I am wearing a carpeted lampshade on my head.)

3) Pull it all out and knit something else. (This would seem very reasonable also except for my woe over having spent 2 days’ worth of knitting time only to have it erased.)

None of these options are particularly appealing to me, especially since it is now cold and snowy outside and I still have no hat to go with my gloves. I may have to just stuff it back in its project bag where it can think about its crimes, and hope that my start-itis returns to vanquish the where-is-my-knitting-motivation-itis that seems to have taken its place.

But in good news, it IS Sunday. Pass the hot chocolate.

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Like Knitting with Chocolate

I’ve spent the last month considering my colour habits in knitting, specifically my relationship with the colour brown. (Well, I’ve done other things in the last month, too, but you understand). In all my colour selections in the past I’ve tended to avoid brown just as an impulse, because I usually associate it with all the other earthy tones like mustard yellow and rusty orange and reds that veer dangerously close to those first two sorts of shades. I like purples, pinkish reds, teals, and blues, and that’s that.

My Cabled Swing Cardi for Rhinebeck was the first point of re-consideration, and as a last-minute Rhinebeck knit I made up a second pair of Maine Morning Mitts in the pink-and-purple-o-riffic shade of Noro Silk Garden #251. And it finally sunk in that brown doesn’t always have to sit next to rusty earth tones, and that perhaps it is actually a pretty nice mix with the purples and reds and teals that I already love.

That same weekend I cast on for this pair of Jaywalkers, and my suspicions were confirmed:

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This is my 3rd pair of Jaywalkers in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock (5th pair overall), in the curiously named colourway of “Pilsen”. Whenever I’ve taken them out with me as travel knitting, they’ve received compliments and inquiries about the yarn, which I definitely take as a good sign. If brown can interact with these shades then I’m a fan. It’s not rust, it reminds me of truffles or berries dipped in chocolate, or layer cakes with cream and raspberries piled on top.

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So I decided to put my new appreciation of brown to the test on another small canvas, as I simultaneously gave in to the comforting wall of Patons Classic Merino on a recent yarn trip. I always look at the wall of Patons Classic with such longing and hope, because it’s a pretty stand-up basic yarn and does the trick for just about anything you want, even if it does lack some of the sturdiness of lanolin-y sheepswool. I am always left with the compulsion to walk out with an armload of it for a sweater but I always resist. And you know, it turns out gloves are pretty satisfying too:

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This is the glove pattern from Patons leaflet #1159, ‘Convertibles, Gloves, and Nordic Mittens’, which I’ve used a few times now and keep going back to because I like the snug use of 3.25mm needles combined with the Patons Classic, and geekily I like the way the thumb gusset is constructed. Sadly I think this is now out of print, but if you ever do come across one of these pattern leaflets I recommend it. I’m combining the shades ‘Petal Pink’ and ‘Chestnut Brown’ by alternating stripes every 3 rows, and so far I couldn’t be happier.

And with that, Monday greets me and I must spend some time doing things other than knitting. What’s on your needles for the winter?

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Filed under accessories, finished object: socks, socks

It’ll be okay. Just think of mittens.

I said this very thing to a stressed out friend the other day. While it is true that she is also a knitter and might have successfully interpreted “just think of mittens” as “maybe you should take your mind off stuff by knitting some mittens, because they are small and fun and very useful now that the temperature is dropping,” I’m not even sure that’s what I meant to say, either. I think I was having a day of wanting to do nothing but knit, and it’s starting to get cold, and mittens are so comforting and warm, that even just thinking about mittens would help me out so why wouldn’t it make somebody else feel better?

Sounds completely reasonable to me. I’ve been coveting mitten patterns over on Ravelry (oh bless that advanced pattern search) like nothing else. I want to make these, and these (at the bottom), and definitely some of these, and have already started on a pair of these (Ravelry link).

But first, I had to make these:

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These tiny adorable mittens are linked up with a tiny adorable i-cord to be used as a bookmark, and they have been sitting around for a few days waiting to be sent to their (very very patient) recipient, in a swap for the 20th Century Novels group on Ravelry. I was going to do this with mini socks, but now that it’s nearly winter I had to go for the mittens. I hope my swap partner likes them. They were a little fiddly but not too difficult, and only require a tiny bit of spare fingering weight yarn – I used some leftover bits of Socks That Rock lightweight. I may need to make more.

In other news, Steph has every so generously tagged me to post 7 pictures/facts about me. I will make this a weekend project.

And, oh yes – Happy Halloween! Have fun if you’ve got kidlets goin out, and if not, well, you can come over to my house and eat cookies.

Otherwise, it’ll be okay. Just think of mittens.

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Meanwhile

I’m starting to come down with a serious case of start-itis or creative vertigo or stash lust or whatever you want to call it, the drive to knit things, all kinds of things, new things now, now, right now. I’m sure this is partly due to me settling into a vacation vibe, but also thanks to the stack of essays I have to grade, since nothing sparks the knitting drive like the desire to procrastinate.

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Still, I’ve been holding off (so far) because there are things already underway that need some attention, in particular poor lovely Halcyon which I started back in April. Even after my fix-it ordeal, I ended up ripping out the entire back section 2/3 of the way through when my fretting over whether I’d allowed enough hip ease got the better of me. I went back, started over with the sleeves, and then last week arrived back at the back piece which I cast on in the next larger size up, only to decrease back to the smaller size at the waist which will hopefully negotiate just the right amount of fit. Fingers crossed, because I am loving this knit once again and the thought that it might betray me is too much to bear.

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I love these cables. By all rational explanations, I shouldn’t be loving wooly cables in June, but this week the weather seems to have reverted back to April, with daily rainshowers and daytime highs below 20 C, so I’ll take the cables while I can.

Last week when the knitting ennui was looming, I dug into some forgotten purchases from last fall and came out with the 2 skeins of Colinette Jitterbug that have been patiently waiting, and decided they would not, after all, become knee socks, but a nice light Clapotis:

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Halfway through and so far, so good. I’m knitting this lighter on 3.5mm needles, and may end up doing just a smidge of blocking when it’s done, to give it a bit of help in the draping department. When this is done, a shawl will take its place – perhaps Swallowtail? Flower Basket? Something else entirely perhaps? And maybe also some startitis satisfaction.

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