Category Archives: fearless knitting

Ticking along

(Because several people asked at my last post – if you want to know more about any future Toronto TTC Knitalongs, join the Ravelry group, follow the TTC Knitalong blog, or simply keep a close eye out on my blog or others like Team-leader Michelle, because advance information about signups is/was available in all of these places.)

I am not entirely sure where this last week has gone, so quickly. Actually, scratch that – I do know where it has gone, but I am still at a loss as to how we are already halfway through the month of July. Can’t we just stick a pin in the middle of summer and have it go on for an extra couple of weeks without having to reckon with the ever-approaching August and therefore the ever-approaching end of the sunny pace of life?

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Things are ticking along, at any rate. Last week I taught my as-yet last scheduled class of the summer at Passionknit, in Toronto, and we cut up some steeks darned good (photos above). I am moving along on various design projects for Tanis Fiber Arts, Indigodragonfly, the Sweet Sheep, as well as some ideas for me, and happily have been offered a teaching contract for the year (in central Ontario, which means a temporary move for me also). I am continuing with my running and training for a half-marathon (late September, fingers crossed), and knitting away in bits and pieces.

This past week I had the chance to head up to the Stratford (Ontario) theatre festival, with an online pal who came through town for a visit. We saw plays, did a bit of shopping, and made the fantastic discovery of the Chocolate Trail, which basically amounts to you paying for an up-to-8-stops pass to various chocolate-serving establishments in town. It was awesome. Chocolate, more chocolate, and then we had chocolate martinis. I regret nothing.

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Then on Saturday, just to round off the week, I made my way into the big city to the Toronto Textile Museum, where I participated in a workshop on Orenburg Lace with Galina Khmeleva.

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Um. Consider my mind blown. Or, rather, I feel as though somebody just came along with a key and opened up the door to something that you hadn’t noticed was there. It was great, sort of a technical workshop and history lesson all in one. This is a knitting practice that wraps together fibre craft, practicality, technical fluidity, beauty, and function so completely that for about a split second you sort of wonder if someone is actually kidding. But no, there is no kidding. This is LACE. Lace that means serious business.

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This week the name of the game is all about getting as much done as I can before getting on a plane on Thursday. I am heading off for several days’ vacation to hang with my friend Liz, and we shall knit, see bits and pieces of San Francisco and LA, make a brief stop at San Diego Comic Con (Sunday tickets were all we could manage), and I imagine, do the appropriate amount of lying around and being women of leisure. I mean, isn’t that what one does when one goes to California? I certainly hope so.

Over and out until next time! Possibly from the other side of the continent.

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Filed under design, fearless knitting, knitting knowledge, lace

You learn something new every day

Hi, my name is Glenna, and last night I nearly died of self-inflicted embarrassment in front of Anne Hanson. True story.

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I had the great fortune to nab one of the spots in her Advanced Lace Knitting class at The Purple Purl, and it was well worth it. Anne is knowledgeable, kind, and patient, and I am jealous of all the people who get to sit in her day-long class today. (I am on my way towards Edmonton later today, for a weekend in celebration of my grandfather’s 95th birthday. He does get to have priority.) I signed up because lace knitting is probably the skill set I possess the least experience in – I’ve been knitting socks and cables for about 5 years, but doing lace for only about 2 – and I also knew that I was going to be tasked with some lace design projects this summer, so anything to help me develop my skills in the lace knitting area is something I’m interested in. I was not disappointed! I have no doubt that everyone in the class enjoyed a revelation or two.

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Among other things, I learned about crochet provisional cast-ons for the first time (I’d managed to avoid it up until now), salient differences between lace patterns with and without the purl-back ‘rest’ rows (I tend towards the purl-back patterns, for speed and memorizability, but I can’t live there forever), different kinds of shawl construction, yarn selection, and much, much more.

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And then, while we were working our little test swatches to practice knitted-on edgings, I was running into some trouble and having difficulty figuring out what I was doing wrong. It was one of those moments where you know without a doubt that your work does not look the way it is supposed to look, and yet your brain refuses to give up the magical explanation as to WHY it doesn’t look right. And so Anne came over and helped me out and we figured out that the reason it wasn’t going right…is because I have been doing my yarnovers (YOs) wrong this entire time.

It rocked my world, I tell you. I immediately (well, today, after resisting the urge to cuddle all my knitted shawls in apologetic tears mumbling I’m so sorry my babies I DONE YOU WRONG) remembered my friend Liz reporting something similar on her Twitter about a week or two ago, and I emailed her to ask if my wrong way vs. the right way was the same as her wrong way vs. the right way. And it WAS. And I went and asked my mother to show me the way SHE does yarnovers, and it turns out SHE does it the same wrong way too. AHA.

So, dear knitting friends, I am duly prepping a post about this, because if there are at least 3 of us in this world who have been doing it wrong, then there are probably others too, and I would like to share this with you so that you don’t have to die of embarrassment while sitting in an Advanced Lace Knitting class with Anne Hanson.

And the rest of you who are doing it right, well. The first round of martinis is on me. Catch you next time (possibly live from Edmonton) with a photo-riffic YO post. It’s gonna be awesome.

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Filed under fearless knitting, lace

Ticky Boxes

Thank you all very much for your comments on my last post, I appreciate them bunches. In the short term I know rationally that nothing is really that terribly dire, even if the part of my brain that would like there to be a firm and predictable long term is gurgling in self-doubt. I will spend a bit of time trying to come up with some next steps and I at least have lots of knitting to keep busy with. And I can use the rest of my time to work on a bit of writing. And blogging. And designing things. And training to run a half-marathon in September. Or, possibly trying to learn the choreography to Beyonce’s All the Single Ladies video. You know, whichever.

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But since there is thankfully still knitting to be done, and human beings to interact with in the outside world, I met up yesterday with a few of the lovely ladies from Canadian Living, as I have been working on another project with them for an upcoming issue. One of the ladies in the group, Tina, has a system to keep track of instructions in knitting patterns whereby, if the pattern reads “Do this step 8 times”, or whatever it is, she then writes 8 little blank ticky-boxes on the pattern instructions sheet and ticks them off every time she does the step. It is so brilliant I am starting to think of other ways to apply this to my general existence.

It also reminded me of the fact that everyone, probably you included, has their own system to manage this sort of thing. After I designed Ivy I had a lot of people (still do occasionally) emailing me to ask me to explain the “at the same time” instruction: the instruction that indicates that, while you work the side shaping and then later the armhole shaping on one edge of the front piece, on the other edge of the piece you are working neckline shaping “at the same time.” It took me a while before I started to clue in that what some people were truly asking me was for me to tell them what system they were supposed to use to track this. After that I started suggesting things – check marks on the pattern page, stitch markers on the WIP itself. You could line up sets of jelly beans in different colours and eat them as you go, it really doesn’t matter. You can find your own system that works and still get the intended result.

So, I will now go off in search of my own life-organization version of ticky boxes. This should be interesting.

Happy knitting!

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Filed under fearless knitting, real life miscellaney

New Sock Pattern, and Cabling Without A Cable Needle

Today I’m happy to unveil my latest sock pattern, which is also my entry for the Socks Revived contest. (I’d been delaying a bit hoping to get some super snazzy photos – but it turns out that travelling around and being trapped under piles of grading does not lend itself to super snazzy photo session time, so I hope these will do!) Happily, I present the Revival socks – available here in my Ravelry store and, for a limited time, here as a free download. I am offering the pattern for free until April 30th, and as of May 1st it will be a sale download through Ravelry and Patternfish as per my other patterns. Ta da!

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When I set out to design something for the contest I wasn’t entirely sure what it was going to look like. I wanted something that would require some concentration and technicality in the execution (because I hate being bored by my knitting), but that would still maintain some simplicity in the final look (because I didn’t want a sock that would look too precious or chaotic to actually, you know, wear). I also am not a huge fan of cutesy or over-stated. And since I’ve been harbouring plenty of twisted-stitch thoughts and art deco-ish inspriation lately, I put that to work on these socks.

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I like socks that have repeating motifs and which show off the pattern details over the top of the foot and leg where most people will see it. I also like cables and twisted stitches. (Headline: no one surprised). This pattern features a series of (fully charted) cables (all cables and twists are worked over 2 sts) to create an attractive set of linear motifs, which also have the practicality of providing a bit of structural integrity. Cables always snug things up a bit, and I like that in a sock. I’ve included instructions for both Magic Loop (which I used in making them), as well as DPNs (with which I am well familiar). Use whichever method is more comfortable for you.

You’ll also see that, like some of my other sock patterns, I include a decorative heel and toe which extends some of the stitches from the main chart. I like the detail and I think it creates a very sharp look, but don’t be shy about modifying this if it suits you – work a regular old slipped stitch heel flap or short row heel if you like, or keep the toe plain if you prefer.

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I include sizing instructions based on modifying gauge. This sample was worked on 2.75mm/US 2 needles (over 68 sts), and comfortably fits a foot/ankle size of 8-9 ins around. Increase or decrease the needle size for best fit according to the size you are knitting for. This sample was worked in Madelinetosh tosh sock, and even for my Size 11 feet I still had a small amount of the 395-yds skein leftover.

Finally, there is one thing you’ll want to know that will make this pattern about a kabillion times easier, which is the method of cabling without a cable needle. It’s how I worked the pattern and my notations strongly encourage you to do so.

If you’re looking for tips on how to do this, it turns out that Knitting Daily’s Sandi Wiseheart is sharing a piece of my brain this week, as she chose this week to do a post on just this topic. In her post she shares links for 2 other cabling-without-a-cable-needle tutorials (it turns out there are several ways of approaching this), and also does a pretty decent job of explaining the method that I use.

Back at the knitting retreat I went to in February with some of the Toronto crowd, she mentioned that she’d never quite gotten the hang of doing it. And I was suitably astonished at this, and sat down (as I was happily whizzing away on my Portland pullover, cable-needle-free) and showed her how I do it. I think she has actually done an even better job than me of explaining it (though I’m still going to give it a shot too, no worries), and articulating through photos and written instructions how to make the cable twist first, then work the stitches. (Essentially, I always keep the “live” stitches to the front of the work, and work the twist-switcheroo on the right needle for right-leaning cables, and on the left needle for the left-leaning cables). Go check out the photos and have some needles and yarn ready to practice it yourself if it’s something you haven’t tried before.

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If you aren’t a cables-without-a-cable-needle person, you can still knit these socks. But I think being able to become fluent with the technique makes cable knitting accessible in more ways and situations (no worry about losing the cable needle on the subway, say), and can move you along more quickly than otherwise.

Anyhoodle, I hope you’ll enjoy the pattern! Happy Friday, and keep the knitting close by.

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Filed under cables, design, fearless knitting, finished object: socks, free pattern

On sizing with needles

In the knitting world there are different ways of changing the size of the thing you are knitting. In general, we expect knitting patterns to include more than one size, or if not multiple sizes then at the very least some form of guidelines for modifying the size if necessary. Most of the time this happens by changing the number of stitches and possibly also the number of repeats of a particular stitch pattern involved in the garment.

However, occasionally you will encounter a knitting pattern which accomplishes a change in sizing by changing the needle size, and maintaining the same (or, mostly the same) pattern instructions otherwise. The effect is that the number of stitches stays the same, but the gauge – and thus the size of the finished object – changes. This approach is less common, and I know that some industry guidelines actively discourage it. In general, I would argue that it is not an ideal approach in all situations, but I am quite in favour of applying this technique in certain instances. My Viper Pilots sock pattern as well as my 14 Karat sock pattern (pictured below), both used this technique, and the glove pattern I’m about to release this week (sneak peek below) also uses this method. The socks I’m working on for Elinor’s Socks Revived contest will likely also employ the changing-size-by-by-changing-gauge technique. I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I use this approach in some scenarios.

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First, let me say that I don’t think this is an ideal approach for all garments. Sweaters or knee socks or other garments that need to be fitted to a large portion of your body should absolutely come with a variety of size instructions and this is best accomplished by changing the number of stitches. Changing the gauge in both row and stitch may not accomplish the exact proportionalitiy you want.

However, if we’re talking about relatively small garments that are going on your hands and feet, there’s a better likelihood of still achieving good proportional fit by changing gauge. By changing needle size you can easily achieve a better fit in circumference, while still maintaining the freedom to adjust length as needed. For example, in both the Viper Pilots and 14 Karat socks, I still include instructions to work the charted pattern until X inches before you wish to start the toe – this still accommodates a variety of foot lengths. The same can be said for gloves.

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Using this approach also allows you to maintain integrity of the stitch pattern being used, without having to add or remove stitches. This is important for patterns which would become quite visually different with a change in stitch number, and when there is no obvious repeat of a motif.

Still, the main reason I like to use this approach – for socks in particular – is to conserve yardage. I have size 11 feet and I am extremely mindful of that fact when I select sock yarn for my own socks or for my designs. You will not find me using sock yarns with yardage less than 350-360 yards per 100g(ish) skein, and in fact i’m much more comfortable if that number is closer to 400 yards than anything else. My sock yarn stash reflects this.

Essentially, if you have big feet and are worried about having enough yarn left to do the socks you want at the length you want, the easiest way to add more worry to that equation is to increase the stitch count. More stitches use more yarn. I’m pretty comfortable up to about 72 or even 74 stitches in circumference on a sock, but upwards of that number I get pretty nervous. If you can achieve the same size difference of adding 6-8 stitches over 2.5mm needles than what you would get by simply increasing to 2.75mm needles, then I’m going to go for the needle change if it means the sock will fit me AND it will still look good and meet my yarnly needs. (The socks below are two separate sizes, worked using exactly the same pattern instructions – the difference is one needle size.)

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Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, but Glenna, if we change the gauge how do we know we can still use the same yarn? Well, sometimes you don’t. You may well have to use a different yarn from what the original pattern sample uses. (I will often make suggestions when I do this). When it all comes down to it, I do not see this as a problem.

Many yarns are versatile and will accommodate a slight gauge change without too much trouble. This is, incidentally, why I tend to prefer the moderate fingering weight area – not too light, but still squishy. Yarns like Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, Dream in Color Smooshy, Sweet Sheep Tight Twist, Fleece Artist merino sock, these all come to mind in this category. Many yarns will allow a slight change in gauge and still look good at either gauge. If you change the gauge drastically enough that you need to jump an entire category – i.e. from fingering weight up to sport weight, or sport weight up to DK, then that’s possible, too.

Whether or not you are using the same yarn as the pattern sample, you still have to ask yourself the same questions about whether or not you are getting the gauge you want. And the modern knitting world we live in has So. Much. Yarn. We have a lot of options if we want to change the yarn – and if it’s worth it to you to knit the pattern the way you want, it’s worth taking the time and effort to find the right yarn.

This has been today’s knitterly ramblings from my brain. Catch you again next time, with yet another pattern release! I’m on fire, I tells ya. On fire.

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Filed under design, fearless knitting, knitting knowledge

Now to find a place to wear it

As it turns out, I finished my Tibetan Dreams stole at the end of December, one of the last finished objects of 2009. And then I realized that a lace stole is probably the least optimal knitted object to finish in the middle of winter, because then you realize you need to photograph it and any outdoor shots of you frolicking with the finished shawl draped elegantly around your shoulders are really really not going to happen in -10C temperatures. So I’ve been waiting for the opportune moment.

Happily, Lisa invited me out to the big city yesterday afternoon, for high tea at the Knit Cafe. (They do this once a month, and it is well worth it. Book in advance.) And after our tea there was a bit of a lull, and their front window was temporarily empty, and I got Lisa to snap a few pictures. (Thankfully, the Knit Cafe people did not seem to mind me draping a shawl all over their empty shop window.) I am extremely grateful. Check it out, man:

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Pattern: Tibetan Dreams stole, by Sivia Harding in ‘The Knitter’s Book of Wool.’
Yarn:
Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight, in Deep Sea
Cast on: November 29, 2009
Cast off: December 27, 2009
Needles: 4.0 mm (one size up from the specs – in retrospect I could have probably done fine with the indicated 3.75mm, as the final stole turned out slightly longer than I might have liked. This is when being tall pays off.)
Notes: Can you knit a beaded stole in a month? Answer: yes, but only if you don’t knit much else, and are clinging to the project as a lifeline in the midst of grading hell. I made no modifications whatsoever to the pattern. There are, however, a few minor errata that slipped through the chart publication cracks, so do look those up before you begin this project.

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This is certainly a challenging project, well beyond beginner-basic lace, but is also a skills-building project. The lace pattern on the edges is a 20-row repeat, which will definitely ask you to step up your concentration. The central panel (worked first), also asks you to pay attention to your chart-reading skills, but I found it enjoyable to tick off the rounds one at a time as the mandala pattern blooms outwards.

Working with beads is still relatively new for me, but it didn’t take long to get the hang of it – in this case the beads are applied with the use of a (0.60mm) crochet hook, on specific stitches. They are spaced out just far enough to keep a bit of interest while knitting, but not to overwhelm the shawl with a huge amount of weight. The final effect is drapey and elegant, and I’m happy with my selection of beads that are coloured similarly to the yarn.

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Allow me to assure you as well, dear blog readers, that just in case you think beauty is the same as perfection, then keep on walkin’. There are a couple of places in the edges in particular where I goofed up big time and just fudged it to make it work, and changed my stitch marker placement so that it didn’t happen again on the next repeat. (I got better). Now, I would probably have to look very very hard to find that same section with the error. I am pretty okay with this. (A good reminder in general, I feel.)

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Sivia Harding, if I didn’t know for a fact what an awesomely nice person you are, I would think you were an evil genius. Thanks for the great pattern.

So what are you waiting for? Go out and knit yourself some badass beaded lace. Best time ever.

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Filed under beads, fearless knitting, finished object: shawl, lace

Parallel insanity

At the moment I have about ten zillion papers and exams still to grade (down from previous total of fifteen zillion), I have design ideas I’ve been wanting to dive into for weeks and months, my Christmas knitting is so far beyond being done that there is no point in even being stressed out about it, and have somehow chosen the month of December to undertake a complete sorting of my closet and non-yarn-related possessions.

So, naturally, I have cast on for a beaded lace shawl.

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This is the Tibetan Clouds stole, by Sivia Harding in the Knitter’s Book of Wool. (The yarn is Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight, in her new colour ‘Deep Sea’.) It’s fantastic. I’m having far too much fun with it. It’s the knitting I can’t wait to get back to in the evening. The lace is moderately challenging so far but not dauntingly so, and the addition of beads every few rows makes it pretty exciting.This pattern does not pre-string the beads, but has you slip the beads onto specific stitches with the use of a 0.60mm crochet hook. (Which, as it turns out, is far easier to execute than it sounds.) I took Sivia’s class at Sock Summit this summer and learned all about the beaded knitting, but I’d been putting off getting more practice with it.

Well, sign me up for more beaded lace, man, because this is the fun kind of crazy. It’s similar to colour-work in that ‘just one more repeat/row’ effect – the beaded rows are like little goal posts, more so than intimidations. I chose silver-lined blue beads in a fairly similar colour to the yarn, for a more subtle ever-so-slightly-sparkly effect. Here’s hoping it all works out by the time I’m ready to block this sucker.

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The way the pattern is constructed is to work the central square panel first, and then pick up stitches for each side to work those one at a time. This is the point I have reached now. Come on 2009, you and me, we’re going to crank out one more lace shawl. Because, you know, knitting socks and hats and mitts in December, that’s just so…practical. Psh.

Screw practical, I want more beads.

Knit on, my friends. Knit on.

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Filed under beads, fearless knitting, lace