Category Archives: fearless knitting

Things I did this summer

Knitting progress continues apace here at Knitting to Stay Sane, but rather than show you the 6 inches more teal green sweater I’ve accumulated since last time, or the swatches and sketches and wound yarn cakes I’m happily pondering, I need to go back for some due diligence on a finished project from the summer that hasn’t yet seen the proper light of the blog since it was finished.

You may remember that I was knitting the Peacock Feathers shawl this summer, and that I gave myself just shy of 2 months to knit it in order to have it finished by my birthday – which also co-incided with the middle of Sock Summit. I think the last time you saw it it looked something like this:

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Or maybe this:

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But I never did get any proper modelled “Finished Object” shots with it, and that’s just a crying shame, because this shawl is awesome.

Oct9-Shawl1

I did, in fact, make my deadline. When I gave myself that deadline I knew it was going to be just enough of a challenge, but do-able. Most of it was done with about 1-2 hours of knitting each day, and some days all I did was two rows on it and that had to be enough. I spent the 5-hour flight from Toronto to Portland for Sock Summit knitting most of the last of the edging chart, and the rest of it the that night. Then on the Friday of Sock Summit I woke up knowing that all that stood between me and a finished shawl was the crochet bind off (which I’d never done before), and blocking and pinning out (which I had to do on the hotel bed, also a first-time experience for me). The great thing (if one wanted to look at it that way) about coming down to the wire on something like this is that you don’t have time to worry about whether or not you can pull off a crochet bind-off on a 600-stitch silk shawl while riding transit to the Oregon Convention Centre and waiting around at coffee breaks. You just do it.

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I wore it around Sock Summit the rest of the weekend, as well as the local Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair here a month ago. It is an eye-catching shawl and I got a lot of lovely compliments on it. This shawl will get you noticed – it is big, beautiful, and any knitter who’s been around the block a few times will look at it and know that you had to put in some time and skill to get it.

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I point these things out not just to state the obvious (because let’s face it, there is no denying the awesomeness of this pattern), but to emphasize the fact that nobody, not one knitter out of the many who have admired and touched this shawl, have noticed or pointed out a single one of the what are probably dozens of mistakes I made while making it. The whole thing is not a big flaming hot mess, let’s be clear on that for sure, but there are little imperfections scattered across it.

Most of them were fairly typical lace knitting mistakes, like accidentally mis-aligning chart rows by 1 stitch and then having to fix it on the next row, but other dumbass moves were things like me reading a double decrease as a single decrease because I was knitting it during the hottest month of July possibly in several decades and my brain was oozing out my ears, and then having to fix that on the next row. But the thing is, there are thousands upon thousands of stitches in this shawl, and I read my knitting as I went and made it work and forged ahead because that’s what I wanted to do. This is 100% silk yarn, and given the choice between an imperfect yet beautiful shawl, and having to rip back silk – I choose living with the imperfections. Beauty does not need to be flawless.

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I love this shawl and I’m glad to have knitted it. It is a skills-building project that will ask a lot of your brain and attention span, but still allows you the restfulness of purling back on the wrong side rows, and the pleasant comfort of increasing every right side row in the same place through yarnovers, like typical triangular shawls do. Tanis’ mulberry silk yarn is a dream to work with (2.2 skeins for this shawl), as is the colour, and now I have this great shawl to pull from my closet the next time I want a kick-ass accessory. The pattern and yarn sat on my shelf for over a year before I finally cast on, and I’m glad to have dispatched them to this result.

What ambitious projects are waiting for you in your stash? You just never know what awesome things they could be.

30 Comments

Filed under fearless knitting, finished object: shawl, lace

Back in action

I’ve returned from my week away at the Haliburton School of Arts summer program, and it’s been a jam-packed week! I could have done without a couple of the very hot days (if you’re a few hours north of Toronto and the humidex is still in the 40C+ range, that is HOT, YO), and especially without whatever bug chomped on my foot and led me to spend my final evening of the week waiting to see an ER doc (and, as it turns out, get some antibiotics, erk), but the knitting parts of the week were all good.

My class was all about sweater knitting, particularly about knitting sweaters that fit, and assorted other things that came up over the course of the week. Our little group got on very well, in fact so nicely that we all met for breakfast on Friday morning and they surprised me with a nice card and thank-you wine. (I have no doubt that it will taste better than regular wine). By mid-week they were even dreaming up other knitting classes I should come back and do next summer, so with any luck we’ll get to do it again.

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Over the course of the week we chattered on about measuring, swatching, (and then more about measuring and swatching), pattern reading and modification, finishing, yarn behaviour, and lots more that I’m probably forgetting.

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We made duct tape dress forms, as one does.

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And we also ate chocolate, chatted, knitted, and enjoyed our luck at having an air-conditioned classroom. We commented at how convenient it is to have chosen a craft (or art?) that allows us to be able to sit and talk in a group at the same time as actually doing the execution. It really is a nice bonus.

And now I’m back in the big city again for a few days and readying myself to exchange one whirlwind for another as I prepare to leave for Sock Summit next Wednesday. There’s more knitting to be done, and I suspect some laundry and list-making.

Catch you again in a couple of days! And stay cool, knitter friends.

9 Comments

Filed under fearless knitting, sweaters, teaching

Just the right age for this, actually

Yesterday marked another year of the Toronto TTC Knitalong, an event that has changed hands from one set of organizers to another over time, and sees a slightly different yarn shop landscape every year in the city, but has been going strong for four or five years now. It is an excuse to roam the city as knitters, shopping and knitting and generally raising the visibility of the craft as we go. The participant fees contribute mostly to a hefty charitable donation to Sistering, a local women’s charity, and mostly it’s just a good time and an excuse to be part of a roving band of knitters for the day. And we lucked out and got a sunny hot day that wasn’t quite so hot as to be mimicking the face of the sun, so that was a bonus.

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Along with Lisa, I was a captain for the Red Team this year, which started in the north end of the city at Passionknit, stopping at Mary Maxim and then Knitomatic before finishing at Romni Wools. Many of the shops offered discounts or prize draws, which was an added bonus and extra bit of enabling. (I very nearly had a falling down in front of the Malabrigo Chunky in Romni Wools, then came to my senses. Though I did emerge with a bit more Cascade 220 and Royal Alpaca by the end of the day). And then we had beer afterwards, and lo, it was good. Team Red was a pretty awesome team (not that I’m biased), and I know a lot of folks went home smiling with a lot of new purchases, and even some new Works in Progress on the needles.

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It is always a lot of fun doing things like this, because you can go around for the day completely immersed in Knitting World, without actually leaving the Real World of the city. You get to be among your own kind (with whom you can say things like “hey I almost lost it in front of the Malabrigo Chunky over there”, and they will know exactly what you mean, or they will not blink an eye if you do things like read a pattern on your cell phone in one hand while casting on with the other), and yet you don’t have to retreat to the woods to reach said Knitting World. It’s like day camp for knitters.

The other fun part about this is encountering the reaction from non-knitters, because in using streetcars and subways to get around on a Saturday (or even walking around), while also knitting (because a lot of knitters plan ahead and bring projects they can work on while standing or riding transit), and while carrying bright red tote bags…uh, well…we get noticed.

We had an interesting bit of chatter with one guy on the streetcar who was genuinely curious what it was that we were doing (he wondered if we had arranged to have a team on every single streetcar/subway in the city), and we explained about the knitting and the shopping and the charity and the fun. He nodded and seemed to think this was reasonable, but then commented that we “seemed a bit young to be knitters.” We explained to him that, no, actually knitters come in all ages and in fact some of the fastest growing age demographics in knitting are the young adults.

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It is easy, immersed in knitting world and only sharing our craft with other knitters, to forget that some people actually experience this world as brand new information. It always seems like people should have caught on by now, that everyone should know by now that knitting world is actually pretty big, is located everywhere, and lived by people in all walks of life. Sometimes, you need to go out with a big group of knitters and pull out your knitting in the middle of a busy subway, just to make sure that everyone knows that, just in case they’ve forgotten – because they sometimes forget.

And really, we are all, in fact, just the right age for this.

Happy knitting this Sunday! Wherever you are.

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Filed under fearless knitting, knitting in public, knitting tourism

On not being a beginner anymore

Every so often I have occasion or just the random presence of mind to consider the whole idea of “skill levels” in knitting. I have actually started to sort of actively resist using categories like that when talking about patterns or designs; I prefer instead to refer to the specific techniques involved in executing the pattern, so that a knitter can relate the pattern to what they do and do not know already, and consider what they may or may not need to learn before or during the execution of the knitted item itself. Because really, the only way to learn cables is to knit something with cables – even if it’s just a swatch that you later turn into a coffee cup cozy or something like that. (But I accept that these categories exist and are not going anywhere, and that if a pattern uses more than knit, purl, and basic decreases, we are probably in the intermediate category. Or is it advanced beginner? Lalalaa I digress.)

And then there are weeks when I arrive at such thoughts when, for example, I am watching a bunch of brand spanking non-knitters try furiously to knit a few rows of garter stitch under the pressure of a competition clock, or ripping out one of my own designs in progress to start on it a 3rd time, or drinking a cocktail while pondering colour theory (me on Sunday evening), and realize that there are a whole lot of different things that make a person not-a-beginner anymore. It’s a pretty vague category and one that sort of exists on a continuum more than anything else. (I mean, really, have you ever heard anyone say, “I just learned the last knitting thing I didn’t know. Now I know how to do everything in knitting and I am totally 100% done now since there will never be anything new in knitting. I’ll go try this scrapbooking thing instead.” Absolutes are hard to come by, is all I’m saying.)

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If you should happen to be one of these people in that vague category of new-ness, or just plain like thinking about knitting skills, I humbly offer this list of 5 ways you too can consider some steps towards no longer being a beginner.

On not being a beginner anymore: 5 ways

1. Make peace with ripping back, or ripping out and starting over.
We are incredibly fortunate as knitters to have embraced a craft that allows us, if we so choose, to completely eliminate any evidence of our mistakes and still be able to re-use the materials that produced the mistakes in the first place. Being able to rip back and re-knit – or at least to decide for ourselves whether we would prefer the re-do option or whether the errors are something we can live with – is a sign of exercising your own decision-making and control over your knitting, and it means you’re not going in blind. You recognize that getting the final product you want is the real goal, not whether or not you’re avoiding the momentary pain of having to rip out hours (sometimes days) of hard work.

2. Become savvy about yarn substitution.
This is a big huge enormous knitting world that we live in. It’s bigger than when I started knitting 7 years ago (that was before Ravelry, when blogs were new, and when nobody had ever even heard of things like Wollmeise), it’s certainly bigger than when my mother started knitting, and we here in North America in particular enjoy a wide range of yarn shops in both bricks-and-mortar and online forms. There is a lot of yarn out there. Of course knitting designers and publishers choose yarn for particular reasons. Of course they would like you to knit with the yarn they used in their patterns. And with the combined power of yarn shops and the internets and a bit of cash, there’s not a lot that’s impossible to acquire.

But sometimes it’s not as feasible to do that, for any number of reasons. And when you can look at a pattern and know things like “oh, that’s a multi-ply worsted-weight wool/alpaca blend yarn that they probably used because it’s warm and also has really nice drape,” then your options open up wide. HUGE, in fact. It’s better to know why that yarn was chosen than to find that specific yarn in the first place. This comes with time, and practice, and asking questions, and appropriate levels of knitting geekery.

3. Ditch the whole concept of “sizes.”
Sizes matter a great deal when you go into a store. You have to know your shoe size if you want to buy shoes and socks. You have to know your dress size at a particular store if you want to buy garments there that will fit you. But in knitting world, you’re not buying your hand-knitted clothing from a store. All of this information is actually almost entirely useless when you are knitting something for yourself. When you’re knitting a sock for yourself, for example, the only reason you might want to know what your shoe size is, is to estimate the quantity of yarn you might need. That’s all. (I’ve learned, for example, that as a person who wears Size 11 ladies shoes, I need at least 360 yards of sock yarn to knit a pair of socks – 375 or 400 is even better.)

What matters more is that you know the measurements of your own body. If your foot has a circumference of 9 inches, and the sock you’re about to knit has a finished circumference of 8 inches, then that gives you about an inch of negative ease (which is about what you want in a regular sock, so they don’t fall down), and that means you can knit that sock without adjusting it. If on the other hand, you’re knitting that same sock and have a foot circumference of 7 inches, then, well, you need to either look for a smaller size in the pattern, or adjust your gauge or yarn or both to make that sock fit, or else anticipate that you will be knitting a pair of loose and slouchy socks. The same goes for sweaters: pay attention more to the finished bust measurements and cross-shoulder measurements than the size listings. This is the information that will actually help you make things that will fit you.

Because, you know, I have a 36-inch bust and really broad shoulders that add up to me being between sizes anyway. At least with knitting I can modify the sweater so that it fits me, rather than hanging my head miserably in the middle of Old Navy because the XL tee hangs like a potato sack but the M that fits my waist makes me look like a football player, so I buy the L instead as a middle ground that still doesn’t quite look right but at least lets me go out in public looking somewhat like an adult. (Just saying.)

June16-PeacockFeathers

4. Try new stuff.
You know what the difference is between the knitter who makes things with cables on them and the knitter who knits things with no cables on them? That first knitter is the one who took 30 minutes out of her life to learn/get someone to show her/watched a YouTube video about/figured out on her own/took a class at a yarn shop about cables, decided she liked it, and now she knits all kinds of stuff with cables on them.

(It’s also possible that that second knitter DID try cables, decided she hated them, and knits lace instead. Which, go ahead with your bad self, Lace-Instead-of-Cables Knitter.)

5. Just knit. Knit a LOT.
That thing that Malcolm Gladwell is on about in ‘Outliers’, about success being a combination of opportunity and putting in 10,000 hours worth of time? Well, I’m pretty sure he’s right about that. Anyone who keeps knitting, regularly, will get better. You can bet on it. You will figure out new ways to hold the yarn so that you can throw or pick a bit faster or easier, you will learn new stuff, you will find new patterns, you will eventually get lonely and that will throw you into the path of new knitter friends who will show you new stuff and patterns and other ways of doing things…and you will get better.

Just keep knitting. Keep knitting a LOT. And you will no longer be able to say that you are probably a beginner knitter. Probably, by that point, you will be creating new beginner knitters yourself.

What else would you add to this list?

Until next time, knitting friends!

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Filed under fearless knitting

On the subject of things that are challenging

 

Mar11-Staked3

In the mean time, I’ve been spending a bit of thought and energy going back to the whole technique of cabling without a cable needle. It’s a favourite technique of mine, knitting-wise, and one that I use and encourage a great deal through my designs. (Hint: I am probably not stopping with the cables in the designs, any time soon.) And I directly point out how this works in this blog post from the fall, with a step-by-step set of photos demonstrating a left-leaning and right-leaning cable.

I don’t think everyone needs to know how to do this, in the same way that I don’t think that any kind of technique is required knowledge for knitting. We are all capable people and we do things as we please, and there is rarely only one single way of accomplishing something in knitting world. But I do think that being able to do this greatly increases your chances of working cables efficiently and quickly, if you don’t have to reach for the cable needle every single time, especially if you are working a pattern that asks you to work several cable twists over a row, every other row. (Um, not that I would know anything about that. Heh. ::coughcough::) And this is one way of working cables that I like a lot.

There are a few basic steps to this that have to do with what cables are and how they are constructed, that may help you to wrap your head around this technique in case you are still struggling with it.

1. All cables or cable twists involve 2 things:
a) the addition of a twist or directional turn in the knitting, that moves one or more stitches in one direction, in the foreground of the work, over top of one or more stitches that move in the opposite direction, in the background of the work.

b) working the stitches in some combination of knitted and purl stitches. In the cases where all stitches are knitted, this is usually referred to as a cable, i.e. C4L is a cable twist leaning to the left over 4 sts, where all sts are knitted. T4L is a cable twist leaning to the left, involving knitted stitches leaning to the left over a background of purl sts.

Some examples of cable notations that all lean to the right might be like so:

Left Cables and Twists

And similarly, all of the following lean to the left:

Right Cables and Twists

In other words, the action of making the twist to the left or to the right is always the same, regardless of how many total sts are being worked. What may differ, however, is whether or not all the sts are worked as knits, or some as knits and some as purls. So…

2. This also means that, although I am working all of these in English style and not Continental (i.e. ‘throwing’ the yarn with the right hand instead of ‘picking’ with the left), you can work the twist like this regardless of whether you are an English or Continental knitter. Just do the twist in the required direction, then work the sts.

3. When you’re working this technique without a cable needle, the only thing that really matters is that you are working these steps in 1a and 1b in sequence: First you make the twist, then you work the sts according to the pattern.

So, all you need to ask yourself when working a cable is: Is this leaning to the left or to the right? And then; Which ones do I knit (or knit through the back loop – ktbl – as the case may be, as here), and which do I purl?

I decided to add to this whole cabling tutorial experience with a video demonstration, because as helpful as photos are, it’s easier for some people to simply see this live in 3D action. So I’ve taken the liberty of doing just that, and as it turns out I like to blather about this so much that I had to divide it up into 3 segments. Part 1 (above) involves some general explanation of the cables and twists (as I do some of here in this post), and also demonstrates a right-leaning cable.

Part 2 (below) adds to the demo by showing several right-leaning and left-leaning cables and twists. All of these are over 2 sts, but the technique would be the same for cables over 4 or 6 sts. After about 8 sts I jump back to the cable needle, it’s just easier that way. (Spoiler alert, in this clip you also see me fixing a couple of boo-boos as I go, re-knitting an unknitted stitch and so forth, from the RH needle. Knitting in front of a camera is tricky, yo.) I also refer to the need for a bit of relaxation while working this technique, to avoid a death grip and hand/arm strain.

And then, in Part 3 (below), I put this all together and just plain work a full needle’s worth of stitches including several cable twists to the left and to the right.

All of this asks you to be comfortable with having some sts that are temporarily live (off a needle). This can sometimes be a bit terrifying if you’re new to it, but it also happens pretty quickly. The worst that could happen is that you drop a stitch in the process, and heck, if you do that, all you have to do is go and remember your Knitting 101 and remember how to pick it up again. (See that? See how I calmly breezed past that? Lalalala you can too.)

Finally, because I know people might ask – I’m demonstrating all of this on a pair of Staked socks, and the pattern will be available from Indigodragonfly Yarns as a kit in mid-April, and as a wide release pattern from me in June. (I’ll be sure to let you know when that all happens.) Also, the knitting back in the background is one of Jennie Gee’s, happily snatched from the Knitty City booth at the Vogue Knitting Live event in NYC. I love her stuff.

Anyhoozle, there you have it. More endorsement for cabling without a cable needle. (And, um, probably not my last). Stay tuned until next time, when I may actually have more cabled knitting progress to report. Those sleeves on the Dusseldorf Aran aren’t going to knit themselves.

Happy knitting!

15 Comments

Filed under cables, demo, design, fearless knitting, tutorial

Getting there

This is the story of how a knitter fixed a really annoying mistake and didn’t die.

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Here we see intrepid, mild-mannered local (or occasionally local) knitter Sasha, at the local yarn shop, working away on a colour-work sock project. (This is incidentally my Neptune High sock pattern, but that’s actually less material to the rest of the story, so I’ll keep the self-promotion to a minimum. Except that, um, I like this pattern and think argyle is awesome. Moving on…)

So anyway, we were all at the yarn shop happily chatting away about yarn and television and movies, as one does, and at one point Sasha looks down at her work and realized she had made an unfortunate error, and not only had she made the error but it was at least a full inch back in the work. And this is on fingering weight yarn (Tanis Fiber Arts sock, and Louet Gems fingering weight, in case you’re curious), so that means an inch is 8-10 rounds. In colour-work.

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It’s the sort of thing that is only obvious in colour-work, in the sort of situation when you might, say, be working 1×1 alternating stripes in knit stitches across the sole of a sock. Have a closer look:

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At some point she just goofed and switched the colours, just on those ten stitches or so. And she, in fact, did not panic. Instead she calmly and quickly decided this was not the sort of thing that was worth pulling out the entire last inch worth of work, and did what I would likely have done in her situation too, which was to isolate one stitch at a time, drop it down to the correct stitch, then pick up each stitch in the correct colour with a crochet hook.

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If you’re thinking “gee, that sounds like the exact same way you would pick up a dropped stitch on a regular non-colour-work piece of knitting,” then, well, you would be correct. Because stranded colourwork always involves carrying both working colours along at once, there are floats in both colours behind the work all the time. So in this case, all a person needs to do is drop down just past the offending stitch (so that it is all gone now), then re-pick-up the stitches in the correct colour. Then move on to the next offending stitch and do the same thing. It all took less than 15 minutes, and when the fix was all done you would never have known.

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And everyone lived to tell the tale.

The end.

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Filed under fearless knitting, tutorial

Cutting a Steek

This is about the point when I should really be showing off my finished fair isle yoke sweater, because it’s done and I’ve worn it and it’s lovely and comfortable. But of course, I still haven’t managed to get some finished object shots of it, so I’m a bit behind. I also need to do a proper 2010 projects-roundup, but I’ll get there soon.

In the mean time, I wanted to go back to the whole ‘steek’ thing, because I mentioned cutting the steek back in my last post before Christmas, and realized after a few of you commented about it, that I didn’t actually fully explain what a steek is and there may be some of you wondering what the heck it is, or who do know what it is but haven’t done one. Steeking, or cutting a steek, is, when all is said and done, the act of cutting up your knitting on purpose. You do this when you want to create a gap or opening in a piece of knitting that you have worked in the round, and the steek is the part of the knitting where you anticipate the cutting will happen. This is instead of what one might normally do in a styled garment, which is to work flat and turn the work at the point where these gaps normally appear – the cardigan front, the armholes, the neckline, etc. One inserts a few ‘extra’ stitches where the gap will appear, and carries on in the round.

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It’s pretty common to do this in stranded colour-work garments, because it means you only have to ever work the Right Side of the work while knitting in two colours at a time, and that saves you the trouble of trying to purl in two colours on the Wrong Side of the work. (Having said that, there are people – my mother included – who choose to simply work the Wrong Side anyway and omit the steek, because they prefer two-colour purling to having to do the steeking thing. It’s whatever brand of crazy you prefer).

If you’re doing this in 100% non-superwash wool, you don’t even need to reinforce it if you don’t want to, because the wool stitches cling to their neighbours well enough that it will not unravel. Unless, you know, you’re planning to really manhandle it or throw it under traffic or something like that. But there are different ways of reinforcing steeks, and in this case I did a sewn reinforcement – running two lines of sewing down the edges of the steek stitches, which is the quickest and most versatile way to reinforce a steek. (You can see the lines of sewing in the picture, above).

Back in December before Christmas, I had the wherewithal to get my sister to take a video clip while I was cutting the cardigan steek on the sweater. Because let’s face it, this is a one-shot opportunity. There’s no do-over on cutting up your knitting. I was hurriedly trying to finish my sweater alongside gift-wrapping, baking, visiting, etc – which probably explains my slightly frenetic tone of voice in the vid, heh – and honestly, the cutting up took less than a minute. If you haven’t had the good fortune to cut up a sweater of your own and want to know how it goes, well. This is how it goes.

Seriously, this is one of the best things ever. You can try it at home any time you want. Knit up a swatch – or even better, just go and find an old swatch in wool yarn, and make a vertical cut in it, and carry the bits around in your handbag for a while and see how it holds up. It’s awesome.

As for the post-steeking work, a couple of people asked how I was going to finish the steek after it had been cut, and I took a couple of shots here as well. There are naturally different options for finishing a steek, depending on what you want to do with the sweater. Elinor, who has done a yet awesomer job than me of explaining all of this, has a nice photo tutorial on the subject of reinforcing and finishing. In this case, I knew I was going to work a ribbed buttonband along the cardigan fronts. So, I mostly just wanted everything to look tidy on the inside.

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Nobody would fault you for simply trimming the sewn edge evenly and leaving it as-is, but I decided to go one step above that. I folded down the edges towards the inside of the work, and neatly stitched them flat.

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And then, you have a finished sweater. It’s pretty great. The only problem is that it’s entirely possible that once you’ve cut one steek, you’ll have the bloodlust and will want to cut up something else. Which means that you’ll have to go off and knit another project that requires steeking. But then, I suppose that’s not a problem after all, is it?

Happy knitting!

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fearless knitting, steeks

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.

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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…

Dec22-SteekSewing

Dec22-SteekBeforeCut

…and then cut right down the middle.

Dec22-SteekFinished1

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!

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

Tangentially related to knitting

There are some days when, despite having a blog devoted almost entirely to knitting, I come across something else that I can’t help but want to show off; like finding a cool thing and needing someone to run to and say “LOOK, I found this cool thing,” because finding it makes your day better.

Sometimes those things are fannish videos edited together from clips of Harry Potter films.

(Note: also includes clips from the most recent film).

I love fannish offerings like this that distill the original text into the very essence of what makes it great in the first place – in this case the friendship and inherent acts of everyday bravery that have grown these characters into not just admirable young people but admirable role models in general.

Stories like the Harry Potter series are powerful because you know that as you turn one page at a time or watch one scene after the next, there are millions of other people doing the same thing. And it makes me smile to know (and then have confirmation later), that the thousands (millions?) of knitters watching these films are parsing out all the beautiful knitted garments worn by the characters, and/or reverse-engineering patterns to make them. Heck, I’ve got my own hand-knitted Ravenclaw scarf as testament to that.

I don’t think it’s a surprise that knitters have started to gather around popular stories like this, and expressing their fan appreciation through their knitting. I like that the same thing can be said about knitting, if such a bold statement can be allowed – that knitting one stitch after the next means that you belong to a group of people who are doing the same thing, putting one stitch after another, possibly with a certain amount of bravery in a world that expects you to get your socks and sweaters from Wal-Mart, not through a laborious but knowledge-dependent and possibly community-building process of handcraft over a period of weeks and months.

Here’s to you, knitters – fannish and otherwise!

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Filed under fandom, fearless knitting

On sucking less

The knitting internets have been gathering momentum the past few weeks. There have been countdowns tossed around on Twitter, SQUEE IN ALL CAPS, excitement over packing and things to knit. Rhinebeck approacheth. I am lucky enough to be attending for the 4th year in a row, and it is always a good time with knitterly interaction, much yarn to be fondled…and the wearing of new knitted sweaters.

I’ve had my own sweater identified for quite a while. Ever since I designed Royale back in the spring, I knew I needed to have one of my own. It was a sad, sad day my friends, when I had to give up the sample to Tanis (though less sad for her, admittedly). I cast on for my own back at the end of July during my California trip, during which time there was much airplane knitting and car knitting, and good opportunities to get it started. It’s been a sporadic knit, largely because I keep putting it down to work on other things in between.

And also because I keep royally screwing it up. And for no good reason whatsoever, becauseĀ I’ve made mistakes on this sweater that are nothing to do with the pattern. The fact that I designed this myself clearly has given me no turf advantage whatsoever. It’s like the yarn and needles got together and said “hah hah, we’ll show her who’s boss.”

Oct1-Royale3

For real, folks, I knitted the original sample in 3 weeks. It was awesome. It could not have gone BETTER. But clearly, now that I am working on my own – even starting it during the leisurely dog days of summer – the universe has come along not once but three times to kick me in the shins.

The first time this happened was that I realized, while sitting in Liz’s living room the morning after I had spent 5 hours from Toronto to San Francisco knitting in front of the airplane seat television, that I had in fact cast on for the wrong size. Rookie mistake, which could not be gotten around. I ripped back, and started over.

The second time this happened was back in August, when my subconscious brain somehow allowed me to stop paying attention to the central pattern chart, and I repeated a whole separate chunk of it in a completely unnecessary fashion. Many of you looked at my blog post back then and said “Um, Glenna, I can’t tell. I don’t know what you’re talking about.” And it could well be the case that I would wear the sweater out and about and nobody would ever know. But I would know. I envisioned myself wearing the sweater around other knitters and having to either walk with my arms folded over me the whole time, or repeatedly say things like “do you like my sweater? I made it myself! except, don’t pay attention to the huge mistake right above the middle of my ribcage, lalalala. Wow that’s nice yarn over there, let’s talk about that instead.”

So I ripped back another four inches and re-knitted it.

Oct7-Royale1

The third time happened a few weeks ago, and I had to spend several moments with the sweater laid out on the couch next to me just staring at it and deciding what was going to happen next. I had neglected that step with using hand-dyed yarn where, in order to avoid severe-looking colour changes when using skeins that look ever so slightly different from each other, you alternate between two skeins for a while until they start to blend. I know how to do this. Heck, I’ve DONE this, many times. I’m pretty sure I’ve even written it down in pattern instructions a few times before. I AM SMARTER THAN THIS. AHAHHAHAH.

I reasoned with myself that maybe it wouldn’t be that obvious in different lights, that maybe people wouldn’t notice…And then my brain finally said “listen. All those other times when you did something sucky, you ripped it out and made the suckiness go away. You’re going to let all of that go to waste by letting the third sucky thing stick around?”
No, no I did not. I ripped it back again.

And now I have most of the body and most of one sleeve, and a week to go before I leave for Rhinebeck, so I’m sincerely hoping that the third time was the charm and that my yarn and needles haven’t got a fourth and fifth mistake session in the works for me. Please, dear sweater, we’ll both be so much happier when I’m wearing you around the knitterly fairgrounds. Deal?

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Filed under fearless knitting, rhinebeck, sweaters