Category Archives: cables

My brain and Fiona

I find my knitting brain in an odd place at the moment. I think that I’ve been putting a lot of my knitting energies lately into finishing things so that I can move on and start something else, whether something of my own or just an item that I want to make and check it off some kind of “done” list. And it’s great for getting things accomplished but not so much for the psyche after a while. In the last week I’ve been feeling a bit of the knitting ennui and a bit of the project fatigue and even some of the “but what if I’m a hack who will never have any more creative thoughts EVER” and, well. That’s never fun. At the moment I’m medicating myself with small, manageable-sized, travel-knitting projects and telling myself it’ll all turn a corner again at some point.

So, it was pretty darned interesting sitting in Fiona Ellis‘s class on Morphing Cables at the Naked Sheep on Saturday morning.


It was, make no mistake, a great class. I’m very glad I went. Fiona is a friendly and expert teacher and strikes me as the sort of person who could go from beginner basic to advanced crazy talk heirloom knitting in about 5 seconds, and would see nothing strange about this at all. Happily, all of us in the class had had some experience with cables before and were pretty game, so she started us all off a few floors up from the basic and after a bit of discussion of breaking down what cables are and how we get them, she had us go right into creating our own.

Yep. Did you know you can make your own cables, just from your own brain? I think I might have known this, but possibly just needed Fiona to tell me so. And really, you should have seen the swatches people were turning out in this class. I was a little bit intimidated looking around the table, for reals. There was a lot of intent work and exploration and graph-paper-charting and “let’s see what happens when I do this” sort of knitting.


Me, I spent a lot of time staring at my swatch, knitting a few rows, noting on the graph paper what I’d done, knitting another few rows, ripping them out and knitting them again, re-writing the graph paper, and staring at my knitting for even longer moments. And Fiona would go around to everyone and talk and give tips, and then get to me and steeple her fingers and ask “how are you doing, Glenna?” And I would say “UM. I have no freaking idea.”

As soon as we had the word ‘go’ I recognized I was going to have a challenging morning ahead of me, because it immediately became clear to me what exactly my creative process is. I absolutely suck at not having a plan. When I get an idea I have to mull it over for the requisite number of hours or days that it decides it needs until it is fully formed, and then I have a plan, and then I work towards executing it. And here we were asked to have absolutely no plan whatsoever, and just “go”. Ahahahahhahahahahhaha surely you must be kidding about this.


It was a little bit world-tilting for me and my brain went back to the “but what if I don’t have an idea?” problem. I have decided that I just need to tell that part of my brain to sit down and shut up and mind its own business, because it has nothing constructive to offer me. I’ll have an idea at some point, it all comes around when you least expect it. And the fact of the matter is I love cables and want to use more of them and have a few pretty specific thoughts on where I’d like to apply them. They’ll let me know what they want to look like, when they feel like it.

And now I feel a bit more as though I know how it works to do go through that execution process. Fiona had several key tips on how to construct cables and make them appear and disappear and morph, and how to try experimenting with them on a rainy day with nothing to do. I’d go back again.


At the end she showed us many of her samples of cabled items which she has knit into patterns and we all ogled and oohed over them. It reminded me I have my printed out copy of Bonnie all bundled with a small heap of Mission Falls 1824 that I need to get out there and knit this winter.

And in the mean time I’ll just be over here clutching my stash and being patient with my brain. It’s got work to do.


Filed under cables, design

Finishing is Fun

Although I’ve finished a few projects in the past month, I’ve been a little bit slow in getting the FO photos together. My Cassidy cardigan is one such casualty. I finished it in time to wear at Rhinebeck – yea verily, I was sewing on the buttons the night before – which was darned useful as I knitted it in Ultra Alpaca and it stood me very well as a warm outdoor garment.

This past Saturday I wore it into Toronto for my yarnly engagements – a class at the Naked Sheep, and hanging-out time at the Purple Purl – and got Jennifer to take about a bazillion pictures of me while I was at the Purl, figuring that there would be at least a couple of shots that turned out. Turns out yarn shops make good photography backdrops, as one might well anticipate.


Pattern: Cassidy, by Bonne Marie Burns / Chic Knits
Yarn: Berocco Ultra Alpaca, ‘oceanic mix’ colourway
Needles: 4.5mm Addi Turbos
Cast-on: September 12, 2009
Cast-off: October 13, 2009.

Modifications: The only thing I did differently was to add length, as I usually do. It adds up to about 1.5 ins added both before and after the waist shaping. The waist then sits where my actual waist is, and covers my hips comfortably. Tall girls unite! Modifying patterns for length since time began.


This is a very comfortable sweater, the Ultra Alpaca is a gorgeous, heathery shade of turquoise, and I have been getting nothing but compliments on it when I wear it out and about. I am even contemplating doing a second one some time in the future…or at the very least, more Ultra Alpaca sweaters. I love this yarn to bits and pieces.

While I’m here, let me just put in a PSA for the benefits of working sweaters in pieces. Now, there are different forms of sweater construction and I’ve done several of them. I think there are times when working a sweater in the round is appropriate and enjoyable, and I’ve done many sweaters in the round. Sometimes it’s because the pattern told me to, other times it’s because I’ve preferred it in the round and modified the pattern to suit my interests.

Cassidy directs you to work in separate pieces which are then seamed together, and I went with this. Here are my reasons three:

1. Portability. I knitted about 2/3 of this sweater over 2 weeks, largely because every time I got on a bus or train, I pulled this out of my bag. It is a lot easier to carry around a piece of a sweater to knit one at a time than to eventually be carrying around most of an entire sweater, which you will be doing at some point if you work it in the round.

2. Structure. Here i used Ultra Alpaca, which is 50% wool/50% alpaca. Alpaca is wonderfully warm and drapey, but also much less elastic and springy than wool. As a result, things made with alpaca and, to a certain extent, alpaca blends, will want to sag and stretch a little bit more than things made with plain wool, which bounces and blocks right back into place after you handwash it. Seams add structural integrity and strength to the garment, and sometimes you want a little bit of extra of that to go around.


3. Control. Cassidy, as you can see above, has a hood. If I had done the sweater all in the round bottom-up and attached the sleeves as I went, I would have ended up working the hood with the entire weight of the sweater in my lap. When you’re working the hood back and forth up there at the neck, you’re flipping back and forth and it can be cumbersome to do that with a whole sweater. Here, I seamed up only the body, worked the hood, then attached the sleeves last.

And you know, the truth of the matter is, I don’t mind seaming. Well, I mind it in the same way that I mind pretty much any finishing steps in the sense that it is the thing standing in the way of me wearing the item and this sometimes annoys me enough to avoid it as long as possible (seriously, I have been known to procrastinate 2 weeks on two little ends to weave in on a shawl. Two), but now that I know how to do seams and how they should look, I don’t mind them as much as I did when I was first knitting sweaters as a new knitter. It gets easier and better with practice, like most other things.

And then when you finish it all, you have a really comfortable and pretty sweater that even Fiona Ellis herself will compliment you on when you wear it to her class. More on that tomorrow!

May your Monday be as painless as possible, with knitting waiting for you at home.


Filed under cables, finished object: sweater

Monday night knitting: Advanced Level Techniques

Before attending this particular Monday night knitting Workshop for One, please come having completed the following steps:

1. Cast on new sweater, fully convinced of enormous amounts of time standing between date of cast on and date of actually wishing to wear the completed sweater.

2. Finish sleeves of sweater within a week. Congratulate self on super speediness.

3. Cast on for back of sweater, complete ribbing.

4. Allow sweater to stagnate for a full two weeks with no active knitting whatsoever. Return to sweater, experience astonishment that it has not in fact been knitting itself while tucked away inside project bag.

5. Experience panic over rapidly approaching date of actually wishing to wear the completed sweater.

Ready? Okay. Now you’re ready to proceed as follows:

6. Consume a full glass of wine.

7. Merrily return to sweater knitting, confident of being able to proceed speedily on back piece of sweater all evening long.

8. Discover that proceeding requires placing an “establishing” row of cables, including several charts.

9. Experience deep confusion wondering why your knitting does not seem to match establishing row instructions. Recall that since you are modifying for length, your hip shaping decreases have not begun yet and thus your establishing row is at least 6 sts off from original pattern instructions.

10. Write out establishing row instructions by hand.

11. Knit the establishing row.

12. Re-knit establishing row.

13. Double-check completed establishing row three more times.

14. In absence of visible remaining errors, continue knitting.

15. Consume second glass of wine to celebrate.

16. The following morning, resume sweater knitting as transit knitting, silently and personally celebrating completion of Advanced Level Knitting Technique: Drunken Cable Placement.

Cassidy - back progress

Cheers, I say. Cheers.


Filed under cables, fearless knitting

Soon. Soon.

In 2 more sleeps I will be on my way to New York City, to the waiting and generous spare bed of my knitting pal Rebecca, then on Saturday it will be off to the New York Sheep and Wool festival, aka Rhinebeck. Wait, there’s something missing in that description, what was it…oh yeah: WOO HOO.

I am so excited. I’ve been looking forward to this like whoa. It’s smack-dab in the middle of the term when both students and profs alike are getting a bit weary, and so far I haven’t had a bad trip to New York yet (knock on wood). For about a month I’ve been saying “I wish Rhinebeck was right now”, and soon it will be, yee-haw! I’ve got two or three vendors in mind that I want to get to first, and after that will be very happy to browse at leisure, and I’m hoping to run into a few of you fellow knit-bloggers out there too. Also, word on the street is that it’s going to be sweater-weather this weekend, which means a wonderful parade of knitwear will be waiting to be ogled.


Thankfully, my own Rhinebeck sweater has been completed and ready and waiting for a week now, and lo and behold, it is lovely. My Cabled Swing Cardi fits beautifully and I think it looks darned smashing. Sadly it’s a bit grey out right now and this is probably not the best light for photography…and it would be even better to be wearing it IN the picture, but a photo session just hasn’t been in the cards the past few days. I’ll try to make up for that on the weekend.


Pattern: Cabled Swing Cardi by Norah Gaughan, in The Knitter’s Book of Yarn by Clara Parkes.
Yarn: Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, colour “Lobster Mix”, 6.5 skeins. (This is much less than the 9 skeins the pattern calls for in the size I made. All evidence on Ravelry points to extremely generous yarn estimates for this pattern). I bought this yarn on sale at WEBS in the spring, and still have 3 skeins left. I’m sure I”ll think of something for the rest of it. It’s an extremely heathery brown, with shades of purple and red all mixed in, I’m pretty pleased with it considering I hardly ever wear brown.
Needles: 4.0mm for ribbing and 4.5mm for the rest.

Mods: The only changes I made were to add a couple of stitches on either side of the back to give it just an idge more ease on my shoulders – I have a fairly slim waist but slightly wider shoulders than most standard sizing accounts for given the size of the rest of me, so that’s a pretty common modification for me. I also opted for i-cord ties on both the inside and the outside front edges, instead of the button on the outside which the pattern instructs. I did this to allow more flexible ease to let me tighten or loosen the fit at the bust according to preference.

All in all, I call this pattern a win. I completed it in just over a month and probably could have had it done quicker if I’d worked on it more dedicatedly in the beginning. The cables are surprisingly intuitive on the front and once you’re finished those, the only other cabling is a small amount on the sleeves. I really like the double seed stitch texture at the top of the bodice.

I have, naturally, already cast on for another sweater. We’ll see if it comes with me this weekend to keep me company in airports.


If I don’t get back to the blog before the weekend – have a good one, whether you’ll be fondling yarn at sheep & wool festivals or no! Catch you on the other side.


Filed under cables, finished object: sweater, rhinebeck, sweaters

Shiver me timbers

(The internets tell me today is Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yarr, mateys).

I’ve been having one of those weeks where I want to knit everything. Like, everything. Only willpower is standing between me and casting on for three more sweaters, two shawls, and four pairs of socks right this very minute. It’s that sort of must-knit-must-knit sensation where I’ve even been looking at knitting books before bedtime, or in the morning, as if just by reading the knitting patterns they will somehow magically start to knit themselves.

Part of this comes from the stash reckoning I did last Sunday, post-Knitter’s-Fair-purchasing, wherein I recognized just how many sweaters I could knit with the yarn I currently own (I did not count the actual number, I thought it was best not to reveal such things in polite company, even if said company is the yarn itself), and how many pairs of socks I could make…and then I felt a little bit dizzy and had to restrain myself from falling on the yarn with patterns and needles and starting everything right away.

This is also partly due to the sudden realization that my trip to Rhinebeck is only a month away, which gives me only a month to finish my ‘Rhinebeck sweater’. Risa is making good speed on a beautiful ‘Town and Country’ from A Fine Fleece, causing me to go back and re-read my copy and start thinking things like “sure I could start a Fylingdales cardigan, I could have that done AND do my Rhinebeck sweater in a month…” And then there are the seven skeins of beautiful red wool I got last year from Wild Apple Farms, which is the only yarn I haven’t knitted up from last year’s purchases, and which I was convinced I would have knitted up into a new Twist by now. (“Maybe I could have that done too…and the Fylingdales…and…um…”)


But my first commitment, it must be said, remains with the Cabled Swing Cardi. The pattern is by Norah Gaughan from The Knitter’s Book of Yarn, and is one of the ones I coveted as soon as I got my copy of the book. I’m working on it in the suggested yarn, Berrocco Ultra Alpaca, purchased on sale from the WEBS spring sale back in April. The colour is Lobster Mix, and while it turned out to be a more chocolatey-brown colour than the deep purple I thought it was going to be, it’s still absolutely delicious and I can’t wait to finish. So far, I’ve done only the right front piece (above), although this also happens to be the piece which requires the most thinking, so that’s got to be worth something, right? I’m still enjoying the yarn, and the pattern isn’t causing me any problems, it’s just gotten sidelined by other things and it’s time to give it some good solid quality time.

So I’d like to at least have this done by Rhinebeck, and preferably not have to walk around with just one front piece pinned to my t-shirt…Though Elspeth has sagely pointed out that this would still, at the very least, make me recognizable. In an ideal world, all Rhinebeck-goers set knitting goals, complete them before the festival, AND arrive at the festival to find perfect weather appropriate for the wearing of the knitted items. Is it wrong to hope for all three? I think I can do it. I just have to actually, um…knit it. Yes.

Happy Friday!


Filed under cables, knitting tourism, rhinebeck, stash, sweaters

Oh those Halcyon days

And that’s a wrap, folks.


Pattern: Halcyon, by Lisa Lloyd in the book ‘A Fine Fleece’.
Yarn: Briggs & Little Regal (light worsted), in ‘turquoise’, just under 6 skeins total. It’s a sheepy sheepy wool, so sheepy that you will regularly encounter bits of straw and grass, etc, but is a bang for your buck at $5-6 for 270 yards. Also, mmmmm, wool.
Needles: 5.0mm for the cables, 4.0mm for the ribbing. (I worked all the cables without a cable needle, which turned this into a surprisingly portable project as it is worked in pieces, and eventually the cables become memorizable).


Cast-on/Cast-off: I started this in the end of April, which gives this about 3.5 months for the project, but that included several stints of on-again-off-again knitting and a re-start of the back piece to give it a bit of shaping.
Modifications: The only changes I made were to knit the 2nd smallest size to begin with on the back/front, then decrease after about 2 centre panel repeats to end up with the smallest size at the waist and bust. Other than that, I completed it exactly as written, and the instructions were clear.

This is a long sweater. I ended up with about an extra inch of length, which is fine for me because I’m 5’9″ and can handle a bit of extra length (I often count on a slightly looser row gauge as a built-in lengthening modification on sweaters that would normally be meant for a shorter frame). However, if you’re significantly shorter than me then even the intended length of 26.5″ might be longer than what you want. My recommendation is to measure yourself, measure your gauge, and adjust accordingly by omitting a few rows at the beginning. (I rather like the way the cable ends at the collar).


Although the fit is generally good, I think my blocking may have been a bit too aggressive and for the next go I’ll probably try to get a smidge less ease. Any way you slice it though, this is a comfort aran and meant for wrapping you up on cool days. I’m happy with it now but probably won’t fully appreciate it until November.

While I did take a few months to work on this and probably could have done it in less time fairly easily, I’m glad in retrospect that I gave it those little vacation breaks now and then. Sometimes you want to knit cables for hours and hours and sometimes you don’t. I saw on Ravelry that someone has this on the books for their Olympic knitting project, and dude, all I can say is godspeed and may your cabling be swift.

I will, however, strike a pose, and celebrate a completed project well done.


(Photo credits, as per usual, go to my lovely patient sister.)



Filed under cables, finished object: sweater

The thing about finishing

Is that about 15% of it is skill and the other 267% (numbers are approximate) is psychology. Halcyon is turning out to be such a damn tease, I’d honestly thought I’d have finished her by now and would be showing you FO photos – especially since Southern Ontario is having the rainiest rainy summer in decades and so all the damp cloudy greenspace would probably be perfect for me to romp around in an aran sweater and pretend that it’s Scotland or something – but no, the finishing is turning out to be the psychological journey that lasts forever. I’d forgotten that part. This sweater has been on the needles for 3 and a half months (with long periods of not-knitting, I admit), so it’s been at least that long since I’ve had to do any serious sweater finishing.


The thing with this sweater is that not only do you need to knit through all those nice beautiful baroque cables acoss all that (albeit yummy) kilometre and a half or so of wool, you then need to knit a collar once you start piecing them together. I always manage to forget that collars need to happen. There was also the other part I forgot about, which is that since this is a saddle shoulder aran, that adds 4 separate seams just at the shoulders, before you can even start to do the sleeves and sides. And then if, say, you start to seam up the saddle shoulders and realize that the shoulder bits are actually a half an inch shorter than they need to be, that could in theory set you back two days while you shore up the energy to go back and knit those extra few rows.

Thankfully I’m onto the sleeves and sides now and I can feel the home stretch kicking in. I’m hoping very much that the shoulders will not make me look like a football player, and that the hem will fit comfortably across the hips just like my measurements told me it would, and that when it is all done I can skip around wearing it cackling ‘MINE MINE ALL MINE NOT YOURS’. You know, like you do.

I’ve also been cheating. I started the Next Sweater.


Note that it is neither cabled, nor teal blue. It’s the Hourglass Pullover from Last Minute Knitted Gifts, in Malabrigo Worsted (here in ‘Holly Hock’) which according to Ravelry turns out to be the 2nd most popular yarn for this project. It’s very, very yummy. I’m using two balls at once and am alternating every 3 rows, to combat any issues with swooshing or dye inconsistencies between kettle batches, and so far I think it’s working beautifully. It’s keeping a nice mottled texture smack dab between pink and purple. What’s not to love?

This week, for real this time, something is getting finished. With the stash as my witness, I will finish a sweater this week.


Filed under cables, sweaters

So Close


Now it just has to finish blocking so I can sew it together and pray it fits properly bide my time until fall when I’ll be able to wear it for real.

Also, now that this is finally moving off the needles I have my next 3 sweaters all planned out. Gonna take a bite out of the stash but good. Just try and stop me.

Will an FO post be next? Stay tuned to find out. In the meantime I’ve got some holiday-Monday bicycle riding and sock knitting to do.

PS – thank you thank you thank you everyone who left happy birthday comments. You make a knitter glad to turn 30.


Filed under cables, sweaters


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.


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.


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:


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.


Filed under accessories, cables, sweaters

Test of knitter vs. Knitter

Last week when I was in Boston I took with me a plain sock knitting project (stockinette, navy, men’s socks – for my grandfather), but I also brought some yarn and a new pattern to start as a treat. Since I was tired and vaguely stressed for a little while (what with almost losing my wallet, and also having to present and generally Think Thoughts) I went ahead and cast on. It’s a beautiful pattern, contained in Lisa Lloyd’s A Fine Fleece (of which I will soon be posting a glowing review), called ‘Halcyon’. And I’d had this nice turquoise sheepswool stashed and waiting for something with cables, so onwards I went.

The pattern is accurate, the sweater is beautiful. My brain, however, is clearly neither of those things at this particular juncture.

I had to cast on twice to set up the ribbing properly. Then after the ribbing I had to rip back a few rows to re-set the cable panels. Then I mis-crossed 2 cables on one of the small 4-stitch cable columns. (I fixed that on the plane yesterday night, then re-fixed it this morning when I thought it didn’t look right). Then I got to a nice stopping point at the end of the first centre-panel repeat and thought I’d take a nice picture of it for my Ravelry project page and noticed something that was more than just a 4-stitch cable mistake.


Those 3 cable twists at the top of the pattern repeat in the middle are not supposed to be all neatly matched up like lines in the sand. Rather, as you might be able to see from the wee pic in the book there, they are supposed to be intersecting in a nice interwoven sort of way. I did not have any interweaving. And there was also no freaking way I was pulling back a dozen rows of sweater and re-knitting them unless absolutely necessary. Especially not when I know there are other ways of dealing with this sort of thing.

I isolated the stitches in question, ripped back, and did some surgery.




It’s much better. The sweater is intact and all cables are go.


I think I’m going to have a wee drinkie now. And maybe stick to the sock for this evening.


Filed under cables, disaster, fearless knitting, knitting gone wrong, sweaters