Category Archives: teaching

The weekend in knitting

This past weekend, I:

1. Did not let the bulky cabled hat idea get the better of me, and got pleasant results on attempt #4. It turned out to be not at all what I was planning when I started with attempt #1, but sort of morphed its way there, as knitting sometimes does. (I’m writing it up. Also, that Sweet Georgia chunky holds up well to ripping-out and re-knitting, I’m here to report.)

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2. Visited the Purple Purl for their 5th anniversary festivities on Saturday. May all such fabulous yarn shops thrive for 5 years and well beyond! Happy birthday, Purple Purl.

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3. Learned that the “icing sandwich” is a completely valid method of eating a cupcake, especially if they are mini ones.

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4. Taught some fabulous and friendly knitters at Ewe Knit, the newest yarn shop in the Toronto knitting community. They are well stocked and, if the classes I have taught there are anything to go by, have quite a few enthusiastic (nay, fearless) knitters already.

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5. Started some chunky mitts for a class sample at the Purl, and hot damn if these don’t go by fast. I think the cuff took me half an hour. Every winter I ask myself why I don’t knit more with chunky yarn, and every time I fail to come up with a solid answer. This stuff is warm and fast!

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It was a busy weekend and I’m looking forward to some cozy knitting time this evening.

Happy knitting this Monday! May you have a fun project and a refreshing beverage waiting for you at home.

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Filed under cables, design, teaching, yarn stores

Summer camp for grown ups

I spent this past week in the company of a group of knitters and other artists and art students at the Haliburton arts workshops, teaching my ‘Knitting Sweaters That Fit’ class that I did last year. It was a good week and I look forward to returning again – I not only had a great bunch of students but the weather was mercifully cool and calm, with the exception of one day of rain. (July has been trending towards the unbearably hot and humid this year, and I emotionally braced myself accordingly when setting off for a week in an un-airconditioned cabin, grateful to discover the peaceful weather report ahead. Excellent for knitting.)

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Having a full week to teach is really an extraordinary thing, since I’m used to doing half-day or single-day workshops. In this class we spend time alternating knitting on sweater projects to talking all about the many details that go into sweater knitting like swatching, fit, measuring, finishing steps, considering your yarn and substitution possiblities, even making duct tape dress forms, and on and on. And because it’s knitting, everyone gets to chat while working away, and this week my students finished their time with hugs and a hope to see people again next year – it really is sort of like summer camp for grownups.

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It is also an intriguing thing to be doing a class like this down the hall from such a diversity of other workshops – pastel drawing, painting, fiddling, jewelry-making, clowning, and so on. Chatting with the other instructors inevitably brings up interesting comparisons between our work and it is fascinating to try to place knitting amongst or in parallel to so many other creative pursuits. I think there is a lot of common ground in that everyone is trying to make something, create something, in a way that pleases them and meets some personal need in their lives or expresses something about themselves. I have no doubt there is artistic truth in knitting, but most days of my knitting life pass without me thinking directly about it.

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In the mean time though, I’ve now gotten myself back to the real world, remembering how constant connection to the internet and reality is both wonderful and horrible all at once, and diving right back into the final stretch of my deadline projects before figuring out the next batch of things for August and the fall. And maybe catch up on a bit of sleep in there somewhere too, heh. It’s that re-entry, as they say.

My teaching page (up there on one of my blog tabs at the top) is on its way to filling up for the fall! Lots of day workshops scheduled for Toronto, and I’ll soon be adding a few more for Peterborough and who knows where else along the way.

Happy knitting this weekend!

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Filed under sweaters, teaching

No rest for the wicked

Friends, I would have genuinely sworn it was the weekend, like…a minute ago. Wasn’t it just yesterday? I really thought it was. Apparently, though, we are now on to April, which means that Saturday wasn’t just last week, it was last month – HAH, nice trick there, calendar.

Saturday was a pretty great day, though. I met Kate at mumble-mumble-o’clock and we hit the road early in the morning for Collingwood, Ontario, where Karen at Grey Heron Yarns was hosting a day-long ‘Knit Fest’ of classes and food and gathering. Kate and I each taught two classes (Entrelac and Tips for her, Colour-work 101 and Lace 101 for me), and these knitters were ready. I’m not sure what they’re putting in the water up in Collingwood, but it makes for a very capable bunch of knitters, I’ll say that much.

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We were so busy that I almost forgot to snap pictures until nearly the end of the day, but thankfully Karen and Brenda didn’t! Collingwood, I look forward to knitting with you again some time. (My teaching page is currently up to date, for anyone in Southern Ontario looking to come join in with some learnin’ this spring.)

In my own knitting life, projects and dreams continue apace, and my rich fantasy life is filling with all kinds of spring and summer plans. I have been thinking about what ambitious lace project I would like to work on this year, since Peacock Feathers took up some attention last summer. Knitted Lace of Estonia? I’m coming for you. (I’d be lying if my desires weren’t leaning towards the Crown Prince Square on the cover, but I might allow myself to start on a Miralda’s Triangle instead. I think that’s as close as I can get to being restrained and sensible ;) )

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And speaking of being not at all restrained and sensible, because I apparently don’t have enough to knit on, I couldn’t take it anymore and cast on on Sunday for a third Royale pullover. I’m currently adding some revisions to this pattern – an additional size, and the option for full sleeves – and it’s making me want another one. I’m currently hoping this will be done before I go to teach Twisted Stitches and Travelling cables next (which will be at Shall We Knit in Waterloo, April 21st), so, you know. Nothing like some self-imposed deadlines.

If you need me, I’ll be over here knitting while staring lovingly at my yarn stash. I have plans.

Happy knitting this fine Wednesday!
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Filed under sweaters, teaching

Looping along

A couple of folks asked last week about a blog tutorial on Magic Loop, since it’s a technique I mention every so often and one that I use happily. So, ta-da! Let’s talk about that, with the aid of some photos.

I will start out with a brief proviso – Magic Loop is the popular name given to the technique of working small circumferences in the round by using a single, long circular needle, in place of a short circular, multiple double-pointed needles, or two circular needles. It is by no means my invention, and in fact I learned this technique through a collection of things – friends showed me, Elizabeth Zimmerman mentions the same basic approach in her books, and of course Bev Galeskas and Sarah Hauschka have what is arguably the most popular publication on the subject. There are likely other resources on the technique. What I’m going to show you here is the essential basics, but as for any technique, I invite you to check out your local resources and advice from other knitters on the subject. I hope this post will spark your interest at the very least!

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So: you’re interested in working in the round for small items (hats, sleeves, socks, gloves, mittens, toys, booties…snake sweaters? Flute cozies? I don’t know, there’s got to be endless options, right?), but aren’t so keen on double-pointed needles (DPNs), or at the very least you’re interested in an alternative. I definitely enjoy the magic loop technique – I still use DPNs frequently, and haven’t tossed them away, but more often I gravitate towards ML as a default.

First: you need a long circular needle, in whatever needle size is desirable for your project, and in a length no shorter than 32″. 40″ circulars are an ideal option for most needle brands, but 32″ is an option if the cord is flexible enough. (The reasons for this will become apparent later on in this post.) I find with products like Signature Needle Arts circulars, Knit Picks fixed circulars/interchangeables, and Addi Lace needles, a 32″ is all I need. With needles like Chiao Goo “red” circulars, classic Addis, and craft-store finds like Unique or Susan Bates, the cords aren’t quite as flexible and a 40″ circular is what you need. There are plenty of other brands that I haven’t managed to spend a lot of time with that are easily in play here as well,  (Dyakraft, Addi interchangeables, Lantern Moon, Hiya Hiya, etc), so if in doubt experiment until you find the ones you prefer the most. I tend to reach for the needles I do because of a combination of preferences – the cord, the materials of the needles, the pointy-ness of the tips, how well the knitting slides (or not) along the needle and cord, and so forth.

(Since I know someone will ask – here I’m using a 32″ circular from Signature Needle Arts, with a 5″ stiletto tip, and a superwash worsted from Neighbourhood Fiber Company that I found at Fibre Space in Alexandria/DC on a trip a while ago.)

Anyway, for magic loop, you’ll need a long circular needle.

The first thing you’ll do, naturally, is cast on all of your stitches as required for the pattern (first photo, above). Next, to get the stitches into working mode, you’ll divide them into two sections, one for each needle, like so:

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It’s most likely you’ll divide them evenly, but you might vary this up slightly depending on pattern. Here I have 2 sections of 22 and 20 sts, because I’m working ribbing in k1tbl, p1 on this mitten cuff, and wanted to keep the ribbing repeat intact. You’ll note that, as one would normally do for working in the round, I have made sure that the round is not ‘twisted’ around the needle, and the yarn will be pulled from the end of the round so that when I make my first stitch, the round will be complete and joined.

This is the position you will start from at the beginning of every round, and at the mid-point of every round. Many knitters refer to this as the “start position.” Your needle tips are lined up, with the work emerging below:

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To start knitting, you will first reach for the needle tip sitting in back…

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…and pull it out along with a portion of the cord.

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Now, you are ready to knit. Just start at the beginning of the round with your two needle tips and proceed as normal according to your pattern.

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When you get to the end of that side, you’ll have the Left Hand needle now sitting loose, drooping at the end of the cord that was looping around the left side.

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So, what you do is flip the work over…

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And pull that formerly droopy needle all the way through the work so that it is lined up at the beginning position just as we had before. Then, keep knitting the other side just like you did the first side.

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You’ll notice that while you work, you’ll have two loops – one on each side of the work, where the sides divide. Managing these two cord loops is, in my humble opinion, the only real difficult part of magic loop, and this is where your needle selection will make the biggest difference. Some needles swivel and twist more than others, others pull and separate at the side join more than others. Try a few kinds and see what works for you.

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There are several advantages to this technique over others. For one, you are only using one attached circular, and so there is no risk of losing one DPN of your set – both needles are always attached to each other at all times. Additionally, this method has the effect of dividing your work into two surfaces instead of 3 or 4. If you happen to be working a pattern which has an intricate pattern over the “front” and on the “back” (as for some socks – the front of the leg and the back are often identical), working this way allows you to not interrupt either of those surface with the join of a DPN, as would typically be the case for working with a set of either 4 or 5 DPNs. This also reduces the number of potential “laddering” points to two, as opposed to 3 or 4.

The only immediate downside to this is that, if you don’t own them already, you’ll have to go shopping for some long circular needles. (But on the other hand…you get to go shopping. So, still a win? ;) )

I’ve taken the liberty of putting up a short video clip on YouTube (because, uh, maybe the zillion other video clips weren’t enough? Heh), in case you’d like to see a little 3-D action on this.

Nothing like getting your Monday off to a good start with a little learnin’. May your day be as painless as possible, and with knitting waiting for you at home!

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18 Comments

Filed under demo, fearless knitting, teaching, tutorial

A day with Elizabeth, and some knitters

Yesterday I spent a very fun day at the Purple Purl, teaching a project class on working EPS seamless yoke sweaters (that’s “Elizabeth’s Percentage System,” for those out there still encountering Elizabeth Zimmerman’s writings), and colour-work selection. If I’m a good girl maybe they’ll even have me back to teach it again some time. All I can say is I thought I was going to just teach the class and have fun and then go home and keep knitting the stuff I have to keep knitting, except now I want to go and knit another one of my OWN seamless yoke sweaters, because I feel like you can’t actually have too many of that sort of thing, and anyway isn’t winter coming soon? ::cough::

But yes, it was a fun day. Everyone brought their swatches – I’d expected plain swatches in the round or flat “speed swatches,” but then there were some inventive swatchers in the group. Sasha did hers in a multi-gauge affair, noting needle changes as she went.

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Then Laura did hers as a hat, which I think is pretty awesome and that Elizabeth Zimmerman would totally approve, and now I sort of wish I’d told everyone to just go knit a hat. Next time, I will.

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And we talked a lot about the EPS numbers, and yoked sweater construction, and took lots of notes. And we talked about colour…

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And selected yarn…

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And everyone coloured in their own customized charts, and we all fondly recalled colouring in kindergarten…

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And then the afternoon was over and we all went home with ideas and yarn. The end.

But actually, it’s not the end, because before I left I went and looked at the “new” Elizabeth Zimmerman book, Knit One, Knit All. It’s a collection of patterns of Elizabth’s largely from the 1970s, which never got published because nobody thought it would sell. And I have to admit, I didn’t think a book of garter stitch patterns was something I needed in my life – but then I looked through the book and it turns out I was wrong, because I bought it and now I want to knit at least half of it.

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I’m going to try to exercise a little bit of patience, though, and finish one of my current projects first. Then maybe I’ll knit a garter stitch jacket. Or just a hat to take the edge off.

Happy Monday, and I hope your knitting is waiting for you at the end of the day!

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Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, teaching

Just in time for some colour

I think it’s safe to say that fall has arrived. The chill blew across Ontario this past weekend and I’m sure more than a few knitters were happily reaching for their knitted socks and sweaters. I know I was! Uh, how quickly do you suppose I can knit five more sweaters?

Last week several of you were asking about the hat pattern I was working on, and I’m pleased to announce it’s here and available for sale! The instructions give you not just a hat but a hat and mitten set, and the option of working the hat as a plain cap or with earflaps. (And also the option of the pompom. I know people have very strong opinions about pompoms.)

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The Frostbite set is available for download through Patternfish, or in my Ravelry store. Let me tell you, this is a pretty quick little undertaking. The plain hat took me about an afternoon, so if you’re new to colour-work and want something to ease you in slowly, this would still be a project you could have done in short time! In the pattern notes I also offer resource suggestions if you are new to the technique. If you’re already familiar with colour-work, though, you’ll easily have this done in a weekend. And once you’ve got the hat, then, well, of course you need the option of matching mittens, right?

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This is worked up in bulky yarn – here, Mirasol Kutama, a 50% wool/50% alpaca blend that is pretty delicious to work with – and a variety of yarns suitable for 14-16 sts/4 ins would work well, like Araucania Nature Wool Chunky, Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Bulky, Cascade Eco, and probably many more that I’m forgetting at the moment.

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I need to thank Bridget at Needles in the Hay for her hat modelling turn when I was up in Peterborough this past Saturday. I must have done a good job of getting her used to being accosted for knitwear photography when I lived there last year, because this time she didn’t bat an eyelash.

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I was there this past Saturday for a fabulous all-day teaching extravaganza, with colour-work in the morning and then steeking in the afternoon. It was a ton of fun and we practiced lots of technique, talked about colour, and then cut up some knitting at the end. All in a day’s work.

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If you’re interested in joining me in a class, I’ve got several more coming up this fall and my Teaching page is up to date with several in the Toronto area.

And finally, I hope your Monday is getting your week off to a good start – or at the very least not too painful a start. Keep the knitting close by!

17 Comments

Filed under accessories, colour-work, design, teaching

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.

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Filed under fearless knitting, sweaters, teaching