Category Archives: fair isle

Just one more row

Like other specialized techniques in knitting, I know stranded colour-work often gets a reputation. It looks so impressive as a finished result that, if you’ve never done it before, it’s easy to hesitate. And I get that, I mean, it does take a bit of concentration to get into it, and if you’re only used to knitting with one colour at a time, knitting with two colours at once can be a little daunting.

But if you ask me, this isn’t the true challenge of stranded colour-work. Once you figure out how it goes and get a bit of practice at it, you’re all good to go and can start using it on projects as big as blankets or as small as mittens. You can go as fine as laceweight and knit yourself some Sanqhar gloves, or go chunky on a Cowichan style cardigan. No no, the real challenge isn’t learning how to do it.

The real challenge is figuring out how to put it down.

Aug25-Longbottom2

I’m so sorry, Other Sweater That Is So Close to Being Finished. And Pair of Socks and Yarns Waiting Ever So Patiently To Be Swatched, I owe you an apology as well. Dearest Yarn Purchased At Sock Summit, well, I’m very sure I meant all those sweet things I said to you about all the good times we were about to have with each other. I’m going to get to you all really really soon.

I just have to knit a few more rows on this colour-work cardigan and then I’ll TOTALLY be right with you.

Really.

…Well okay. Probably.

(Relatedly: progress on the Longbottom cardigan is going well. More on the rest soon enough! Happy knitting today.)

25 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle

My multiple comparative gauge swatches bring all the boys to the yard

One of my projects this week has been getting design plans off the ground for the inspired-by-Neville fair isle cardigan, and it’s been great fun to map out. (Fair warning: if you’re looking for an exact copy of his Deathly Hallows sweater, this won’t be it. I will be leaning a bit closer to a true Shetland style sweater, and so won’t be including the pockets and hoodie, and will be varying the border and peerie patterns just a bit. But still, I can promise you it’s going to be awesome, I can feel it.)

I was happily swatching it up earlier in the week, getting a sense of the patterns and colour combinations – because as it turns out, even when you are using black, cream, and five shades of grey, you really do have to spend a bit of time getting it right. (I sort of think this is half the fun, but don’t tell anyone.)

Aug18-LongbottomSwatches

So anyhow, I had it nicely planned out and I liked the fabric I was getting at 8 sts to the inch. Then, I did a quick bit of math and realized that since this is going to be a men’s cardigan, therefore even the smallest size was going to have a cast-on number of nearly 300 sts.

Then, I cast on a new swatch, at 7.5 sts to the inch, and it turns out that fabric is still totally awesome and will save everybody a few dozen stitches at the cast-on. I’m thinking of you, dear knitters. It was totally worth it. Start practicing up your colour-work for fall, kids! (I can’t understand why the back-to-school television ads don’t lead with that, tsk.)

Stay tuned until next time, when I’ll have another sock pattern to formally introduce you to. I’ll be coming to you from Edmonton for the weekend, where I will sadly not be running the half marathon that was to be the purpose of the trip (SOB), but I shall have a friendly visit with relatives all the same.

Keep on knititng!

21 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle, swatching

Colour toolboxes

Thank you all so much for the lovely feedback on my Firefly socks in my last post – it is always so reassuring to have knitter-geek solidarity. It’s been a sock-a-riffic summer so far, and still with a bit more summer time to go!

Another one of my ongoing projects this summer has been to spend time thinking about colour. I’m planning some colour-work designs in the fall and winter ahead, and in addition to sharpening my fair isle skills have been pondering colour theory and ways to practice colour knowledge in a compatible fashion with knitting. As much as has been written on colour theory, most of it assumes your medium is something mix-able, like paint or pastels, and I’ve been thinking about how to work through various ideas and colour brainstorming in yarn form. It’s also been neat to think through more ways of teaching this kind of thing, should future such opportunities come up.

Aug14-Crayons1

One suggestion I got from another instructor at the Haliburton Arts School in July (herself a painter) was to go and get the full 96 pack of Crayola crayons – it has a wider variety of hues than your average box of pencil crayons, and at a much friendlier price than most formal art supplies. It makes for easy graphing or colour-testing to check out colour combinations, when you want options for, say, magenta and periwinkle instead of just pink and blue. And the boxes still come with sharpeners inside! Ah, childhood memories.

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I do love that they wrap the crayons with the spectrum in mind – you can tell at a glance which colours belong to the blues or the violets, right when you’ve picked them up. I also find it interesting that the number of reds and violets, as well as blues and greens, far out-number the other shades. I suppose these must be the shades that kids reach for most often?

But then, there is still the question of the yarns themselves.

Aug15-PaletteColours

Inspired by a photo circulating on Pinterest which displayed embroidery floss on clothes-pin bobbins, I decided to create my own yarn “paintbox” with my colour-work yarn (here, Knit Picks Palette). I have so many colours to choose from if I were to start making selections for a design that it gets unwieldy to pull out all the yarn at once (those two big tubs are starting to get heavy…and overstuffed…oh yes, let’s definitely get some of that yarn into garment form!), but this way I can have them all in a box at a glance, and sort all the shades according to their hue.

It is the awesomest. If I want to look at, say, all the blue-greens, there they are! I think pretty soon my (smaller) Cascade 220 stash is going to get the same treatment.

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Ah, colour. So much fun, so little time.

28 Comments

Filed under colour-work, design, fair isle, knitting knowledge, stash

So long, 2010

I’m a little late and a dollar short on my look back at 2010, and as I once again look ahead to a busy first few months of the new year (‘day job’ teaching, and of course a lot of knitting plans), I’m glad to have taken it a bit slow for these first few days of the new year. It has been restful to allow myself a bit of time to work on my current projects and think about new ones, without interruption.

I’ve also been wearing my last big project of 2010, and grabbed some photos of it yesterday thanks to Bridget, which means I can finally report on it here and call 2010 officially wrapped up.

Jan7-Yoke1

This is my fair isle yoke cardigan, worked from instructions found in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Around. It is based on her ‘percentage system’, instructing you to do the math for your own body and essentially design your own sweater to fit. As written, the pattern instructions are for a pullover, but I decided to plan it out as a cardigan using a steek down the centre to create the gap for the button band (as described in my previous post). I’m happy with how it turned out, though I do wish in retrospect that I had used just one more button, allowing for slightly closer distance between buttons.

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It was an enjoyable knit, and one which really progressed fairly quickly once I dedicated myself to it (it was sadly put aside more than once, for a couple of weeks at a time), since the majority of it is plain stockinette stitch. And because I’m Like That, I decided to choose my own fair isle motifs for the yoke (and sleeve accents, for fun), which took a bit more brain time for decision-making but again moved pretty quickly once I sat down to do it. I’m happy with the final result and would be happy to knit another one – perhaps even take the foundational ideas into some designs.

My 2010 had some good knitting in it.

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All in all in 2010, I completed 30 projects or so – a great number, but one which is actually smaller than my totals for any of the years past. I think this is because I devoted more of my time than ever before to projects of my own design, and with design comes time spent in progress and thought before anything can be completed. I’m happy with the projects I did this year – 5 sweaters, 11 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of mittens and gloves, and many other shawls, hats, and other accessories.

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Oct8-Staked4

I completed many projects that I’m quite proud of, and I’m glad for the things I’ve learned through them. I tried my hand at shawl design for the first time (and then a second time), and have been lucky to have worked with different and beautiful yarns from several Canadian dyers. I travelled to Rhinebeck once again and met up with a lot of wonderful knitting friends, new and old. I expanded by knowledge by taking more knitting classes, and taught a few more knitting classes myself. I look forward to more of all of this in 2011.

I hope your 2011 has gotten off to a good start! Happy knitting, and happy weekend ahead.

23 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, finished object: sweater, year in review

Gradual but steady

I have reached that stage of the holidays where, despite the fact that my load is relatively light compared to many others with enormous families, I have come to terms with the fact that not everything I wanted to get done is going to happen before Christmas, and I’ll just let finished things happen where they may. Some of the cookies will be post-Christmas cookies. I’ll finish up the Lord of the Rings re-viewing maybe on Boxing Day. I’ll be getting on a plane tomorrow and that’ll be some nice key knitting time right there.

Dec22-CaramelsAndKnitting

My grandfather’s socks, the only knitted gift that is a real must on my list, are on the go and are likely going to be the only thing I’ll work on for the next few days. I started them yesterday (ahahaha yeah, I’m a bit behind) in between stirring the pot of caramel I had going while attempting to make caramel marshmallows. (You know, because I somehow burned half of the simple sugar cookie recipe, but managed to make caramel marshmallows just fine? Yeah, I don’t know either.) Needless to say, those took basically all afternoon yesterday, but they are delicious. And a few little bags of them will be gifted, which is extra awesome.

I’ve also been so close to finishing up my Elizabeth Zimmerman yoked sweater that have been letting myself spend time on it this week in the scant couple of days that I’m at the homestead in Hamilton, because there is a sewing machine and I’ve been mostly by myself (my parents are living abroad this year, in Australia, and my sister and I carry on to relatives in Edmonton for Christmas festivities), which means I get to do things like make caramels and cut steeks whenever I darned well please. And I’m really looking forward to a) having a new winter sweater to wear, as well as b) finally finishing one of the ongoing projects I’ve had lingering for a couple of months and being able to move on to a new sweater or something else according to my whims.

Dec22-EZyokeCardigan1

I picked this back up again a week or two ago after neglecting it for a bit, and it’s only just gotten interesting in the last few days with the addition of the fair isle patterns on the yoke. It’s been the sort of project that I haven’t displayed much of on the blog because it would have amounted, essentially, to a sequence of photos of more brown stockinette knitting. But then, suddenly, poof, the colour-work portion came up and I was buoyed to get it done. The buttonband and neckband are just going to be basic ribbing, which means the steek edge is going to be visible on the wrong side of the work (as compared to a folded-over facing), so I elected to do just a simple sewn reinforcement. I sewed a line of stitches down each side of the middle of the steek…

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…and then cut right down the middle.

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Dec22-SteekFinished2

And that was that. Done and done. I tell you, steeking never gets old. And because this sweater is worked all at once in the round, all I have now is the ribbing for the buttonband, a few ends to sew in, and I’ll be done. Of course, there is the small matter that I forgot that I will need buttons, to sew onto the buttonband. But I’m sure that’s just a small matter, right? Buttons will magically materialize somehow? Um…maybe? I’ll be on the lookout. And will be sure to report back when it’s all done for good.

Whatever stage of holiday or non-holiday knitting, craziness, or both, you may be at right now, I wish you the best this week. And I’ll toast you all when I have a drink with my knitting later on tonight. And tomorrow. And probably Christmas Day and the day after that.

Happy knitting!

17 Comments

Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, fearless knitting, steeks, sweaters

Hit or Mess

As I continue on these simultaneous and co-dependent paths of Knitting Things and Also Designing Things That Other People Might Want To Knit Too, I am learning that sometimes there is a fine line between creativity and frustration. Sometimes I get hit with five ideas at once and I love them all to bits and pieces and want to cuddle them and make everyone love them as much as i do, but then I don’t have time to act on all of them at first and then the ideas Must Wait and then I get Impatient. Other times I find myself having nothing to knit that does not involve making a set of decisions before progressing forward, or ripping out and re-doing, and the Creative Process starts to look a lot like Walking Around With A Black Raincloud Over My Head. (Or, that could just be today’s weather. Whichever).

This weekend was such an occasion/process for me. This month I assigned myself the task of knitting a Fair Isle Yoke cardigan from Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions, knowing that it involved relatively quick worsted weight knitting and that I had the yarn in my stash all ready to go, and therefore that this should be pretty easy as far as my knitting life was concerned. But of course, because my knitting brain tends to reject things that seem too easy, I also assigned myself the task of inserting a fair isle panel near the cuffs on the sleeves, even though this wasn’t in the original instructions. I was also motivated to do this in the interest of saving yarn – I have a limited amount of the dark brown (main colour) in use for the body and sleeves, and so inserting other colours onto the sleeves is a way of extending the lifespan of the dark brown skeins.

Nov22-EZsleeve1

Of course, this also meant choosing fair isle motifs to go on the sleeves, AND front-loading the decision about what colours to use for said motifs (rather than waiting until after the sleeves and body were done, and making said decision after having started the yoke). I procrastinated on this step like CRAZY. I let the sleeve cuff sit there, barely started, for a week. I gave myself 9 different shades to choose from, even though I only needed 4-5, which of course only made it harder for myself. And then when you add in the voice that says “make it better, make it more than that, dummy,” even simple tasks become challenging. I got there in the end, after a few tries and after convincing myself that it really is totally OK if it’s something fairly simple and not seven different kinds of complicated, but truthfully, I probably wouldn’t have agonized over it so much if I wasn’t also agonizing over other things.

Nov22-WillowV1

Take this wee mitten cuff, as Exhibit #2. It’s almost half a mitt, even, and I was really enjoying working the motif on it, and I also rather like the colour. But the more I kept knitting it the more I started to re-think it, and am not entirely convinced of the stitch count for the fit, the complexity of the motif, or even the matchup between the pattern and the colourway.

So, another thing that feels like a mess is going to get ripped and restarted, and I’ll start again and it’s going to be better the 2nd time around, but by the end of Sunday I was really starting to wish I had some knitting to turn to that didn’t involve the entire fate of the project being left to my decisions. And then, I realized that I do! I do have such a project. I have the Pi Shawl. Which is stockinette and easy, and, um, also now in the five-hundred-and-mumblety-mumblety number of stitches phase.

Nov22-PiShawl

And now I’m not sure if I don’t actually prefer the mess.
Go figure.

18 Comments

Filed under design, elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle

Stranded again

On Saturday afternoon I was merrily engaged in another Advanced Level Knitting Technique: In-Transit Stranded Colour-work. (Because really, if you’re not working up a colour-work hat while crammed onto a commuter bus sailing down the highway towards the big city, I just don’t think you’re as committed to this whole “knitting” thing as you should be.)

Oct3-BeaumontTransit

I please myself to say I executed most of the crown shaping on that bus ride without any dropped stitches (though sadly my cute dragonfly stitch marker was the casualty…It was clearly the sacrifice the knitting fates were looking for and I had lost it by the end of the ride). But of course, this being colour-work and all, my eyes were pretty well glued to the knitting and I totally missed out on the degree of weirded-out glances I undoubtedly received.

This is the Beaumont tam, from Jared Flood’s recently released Made in Brooklyn booklet. It is a beautiful pattern and relatively quick to execute as colour-work projects go. And though this was the first time I’d worked with the project-specified yarn, Classic Elite Fresco, I doubt it will be the last. It’s soft, the colour selection is great, and it’s got bunny in it (10% angora/30% baby alpaca/60% wool), and I will definitely need one of these hats for myself somewhere down the road.

Oct3-Beaumont1

Because yes, this hat is no longer in my hands but lives with the fabulous ladies of the Purple Purl. The last time I was in the shop, Miko somehow managed to walk me over to the Fresco and hold me in thrall long enough to convince me to knit them up a Beaumont, and I left the shop with the ribbing already on the needles and a vague sense that I had somehow gotten myself hosed.

But naturally, I say this with love, because sample knitting is a very rare thing for me (aka “what do you mean I have to do all this knitting and time and don’t even get to KEEP IT FOR ME ME ME ALL ME” sort of knitting), but it’s very easy to do when you love the home that the knitting is going to. I’m just so super happy that the Purple Purl is about to turn Two Years Old. It feels like they’ve been around a whole lot longer than that, and I hope they never leave. Even though it takes me an hour and a half to get there, they are the store that feels most like my Local Yarn Shop.

Oct3-PurplePurl

Do you have a beloved Local Yarn Shop? What fabulous things have happened at your LYS lately?

Have a fantabulous Sunday evening, and hopefully a manageable Monday ahead!

26 Comments

Filed under fair isle, finished object: accessories, knitting in public, yarn stores

Pardon me, I couldn’t hear you over how awesome my sweater is

Legendary, folks. Legendary. It is done, it fits like a dream, and it is going to kick all kinds of ass when I wear it at Rhinebeck this fall. This is Autumn Rose.

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Pattern: Autumn Rose, by Eunny Jang (published in Jamieson’s ‘Simply Shetland 4′)
Yarn: Palette fingering weight, from Knit Picks
Needles: 3.25mm Addi Turbos
Cast on: April 25, 2009
Bind off: July 23, 2009 (then a couple more days for washing/blocking)
Modifications: Many.

Oh, where do I start with the modifications. The most obvious one was the colour scheme. I went with Knit Picks’ Palette because I own quite a lot of it, and I quite like the colour selection now that they have been expanding the heathers line. I hope they will continue to expand further, as it can only make the yarn more versatile as a colur-work tool. The original Autumn Rose colours in the pattern are gorgeous, but just not a good fit for my own colour preferences. I tend more towards reds and purples and jewel tones and the original scheme reads more on the rustier – or, well, ‘autumn’ side of the spectrum. After much swatching and indecision, I settled on the one you see here.

In place of golds, I made use of the new green shades Knit Picks added to their Palette collection recently. The main one is clover (in place of old gold), and the others from darkest to lightest are spearmint, edamame, celadon, and green tea heather. In place of the oranges and blues used in the original, I used purples and reds. The main one is garnet heather (seen next to clover in the ribbing sections), and the others from darkest to lightest are merlot heather, bark, clematis heather, huckleberry heather, and lilac heather. (Aside: if Knit Picks ever discontinues the garnet heather shade, I may not survive. It is my absolute favourite).

Also, let it be known that swatching is WORTH IT. The only thing keeping me on the ledge while I fretted over whether it was coming out too small was knowing that my swatch did indeed block out to gauge after I washed it (when knitting sweaters remember to both knit and wash your swatches, friends, much tragedy could be saved.)

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Another key area in which I made modifications is in the length and sizing. Essentially, if I had knitted this pattern purely according to the written instructions and not put any thought into it, it would have been several inches shorter, the waistline would not have fit me, and the shoulders would have been far too snug. This alone does not make this a bad pattern – it is extremely gorgeous, make no mistake. It simply means that this pattern is designed for a person several inches shorter than me. This is also a pretty common thing for me, the only difference is that with a fair isle patter like this, you can’t exactly rip out a few inches and start over as easily as with a plain single colour project.

I think that anyone making this sweater would be smart to begin by drawing their own pattern schematic based on their own body and the desired measurements you want, then ensure that once you have begun and established the chart, your knitting follows the length measurements you need and the stitch counts you need for width based on gauge.

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Never forget that when you are knitting a sweater, whoever designed it is never going to be exactly as smart as you. That pattern was not designed for your body, and your job – which you are entirely qualified for – is to know your body well enough to adjust whatever it is you are knitting to fit yourself. This concept generally gets emphasized in the context of knitting plus-sized sweaters (and rightly so), but I’m here to tell you that as a tall woman, never once have I encountered a sweater pattern that hasn’t required some modification. I’ve added length to sleeves and hems, and re-placed waistlines so often now that it’s become second nature, and I generally need to add at least an inch or more between the waist and armholes in order to ensure the waist actually sits where my waist is. The moral of the story is, if you want your sweaters to fit – know thyself! Measure your body, know your gauge, and know how much ease you want to achieve, and make it so.

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The original Autumn Rose pattern calls for an extremely low neckline, so much the better to accommodate negative ease around the bust and provide a very modern look. I did, however, raise the neckline about 2 inches, which I have seen from Ravelry is a pretty common modification. I am pretty happy with this decision and am comfortable with how this would look over a tee or camisole from my own wardrobe. Essentially, I set the neckline to begin at about the same time as the armhole decreases. Additionally, I lengthened the shoulders by spacing out the last several decreases a little more than what the pattern specifies. I have broad shoulders, so this was a good decision for me.

You wanted to see the inside, right? Right, I thought you did, that’s why I took pictures of it. There’s the white crocheted edge of the cut steek, now tucked away neatly inside the neckline. You can also see all the ends of the yarns from all of the colour changes, which were woven in as I worked each new pair of colours.

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When I learned to knit fair isle, the first project I made was a Philosopher’s Wool sweater. On their website the Philosopher’s wool folks have a video about knitting two-handed for colour-work, and this along with a personal tutorial from my friend Dee was essentially all the instruction I had on two-handed technique. I use the same general approach not just for knitting but for weaving in new colours a few stitches before the change-over (you can see where all the ends are sticking out there just before the side seam, on either side). This essentially means that you are weaving in ends as you go, which saves you from having to weep the tears of a thousand rivers weave in all the ends after you are finished the whole sweater. All that’s left is a bit of trimming, sew in the ends at the bind-off and cast-on edges, and you’re done.

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On my last post a few days ago when I was cutting the steek on this sweater, a lot of you commented on what an act of courage it must be to do this, or how brave I must be to be working steeks or colour-work. And you know, that absolutely tickles me because the fact of the matter is, ‘brave’ is probably the last adjective in the world I would use to describe myself. If I made you a list of all the things I’ve shied away from doing because of being too chicken, well…it wouldn’t be a very pretty list. But after knitting a sweater like this (and this may be easy to guess based on how many other possible ways there are to stress out about a project like this, as described above), the actual cutting of the steek becomes sort of beside the point. In the process, I’d forgotten that steeking is something that really does call for a bit of moxy. So, if making this sweater makes me in any way brave…I’ll take it.

And Elspeth? Since we are supposedly both knitting this sweater to wear for Rhinebeck 2009…If you don’t find a way to make this sweater yourself, even though I know you’re sweating bullets over getting gauge…I’m comin’ for you. That’s right, YOU.

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And YOU TOO, if you don’t get out there and knit yourself some fair isle. Grab your favourite colours, grab a stranded pattern, any pattern, no matter how simple or how difficult, and DO IT. You’ll never look at knitting the same way again.

(Also, thank you all for the birthday wishes/spinning congrats yesterday, they were fantastic.)

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Filed under fair isle, finished object: sweater

Dear Blog

Today, I cut up my knitting.

I laid in a crochet reinforcement

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And then I cut that steek, that single, beautiful steek.

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And then my sweater had a neckline.

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And lo, it was good.

So, dear blog, all that’s left to do now is the ribbing on the neckline and a teensy bit of finishing, and then the blocking. And blog, even though I know it’ll probably be OK and the gauge swatch I made said it would be OK, and I even went ahead and l taunted Elspeth like that…

I really really really hope it fits.

Finger-crossingly yours,
Me.

25 Comments

Filed under fair isle, fearless knitting, sweaters

Only one way to go from here

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Stay tuned.

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Filed under fair isle, sweaters