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If in doubt, add colour

This Sunday my local yarn shop Handknit Yarn Studio held the first meeting of their current Knitalong, which this time around is for stranded colour-work mittens. They held the kick-off meeting at a nearby cafe because so many people had joined up that it was too many people to fit in the store itself. I went along to help out with any colour-work knitting tips as might be helpful at the time, but also to hang out and be knitterly which is good fun on a Sunday morning any week of the year if you ask me. And everyone seemed to be having a great time, even in their great focus and concentration! Knitted mitts are serious business this time of year, man, we’ve still got a solid 2 more months worth of mitten-wearing time (if we’re lucky and don’t get more than that, anyway!)

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(Note: I sadly do not know what knitted patterns are being worn in this photo, mea culpa!)

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I didn’t cast on for a new mitten pattern at the same time, tempting though it might have been. I’m trying to finish up a couple of other projects and while the temptation to start something new is very high indeed at this time of year, I am resolved to get something – maybe even more than one something – finished in January so that February can have some fresh and enjoyable new cast-on projects while winter still lingers.

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Instead I brought along my colour-work in-the-round-swatch that has been going on for about a year and a half now. I use it when I teach stranded colour-work and have just continued it and changed up the colours every so often, so that eventually it will get long enough that I’ll join it up as a cowl. My only real scheme of things is to keep one colour/hue and one neutral  on each round, but other than that it’s all scraps from my leftovers of worsted weight yarn mingling together.

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I even sat down after I got home and added a few more rounds of colour to it, and am reminding myself that it’s for leftovers and practice and doesn’t need to be rushed – it’ll grow and get prettier at its own little pace. When in doubt, play with a bit of colour, I say.

Happy knitting this fine Monday! I hope you’re knitting on something excellent.

 

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At the top of the year

It’s the top of another new year, knitter friends, and so I decided to collect up the bits of advice that are the things I usually tell – or want to tell – to knitters, especially those who might be a bit newer to the craft and still struggling along. If you’ve taken a class with me or interacted with me in an extended fashion in any knitterly setting, you’ve probably heard me saying some of these things.

Some of these things are also, it bears mentioning, advice I have to remind myself of at times. We’re all works in progress, after all.

Happy New Year!

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First and always, keep knitting.
You will keep getting better.

Respect your mistakes.
They are trying to teach you something new, usually when you are trying very hard not to learn something new.

Knit from where you are now.
Try hard to be honest about the skills you have, and the successes you have had with them. Recognize what you don’t know how to do (yet) and let your future projects build up your skills as well as add to them. There’s lots you can do, even if there’s lots you don’t know yet.

Celebrate your accomplishments.
Knitting is filled with infinite small victories, many of them only acknowledged quietly to ourselves, and many others not at all. It feels good to feel good about making something.

Have your own goals.
Take an inventory of the things you don’t know how to do yet but would like to be able to do. The only scorecard of knitting skills you need to be observing is the one that gets you working on the projects you want. Don’t bother with cables if you don’t want to make them. Learn beaded lace knitting if it’s the only skill standing in between you and the finished project you really really wish you had. You get to decide.

Knit with colours that you love.
Our yarn choices are many and our knitting time is limited, and there is no reason to make things in colours that don’t bring you joy to knit and wear.

Recognize why you knit, and for whom.
Allow yourself to stop knitting on projects that don’t match those reasons.

Recognize when you are feeling overwhelmed.
When a project feels like too much for you to handle or that everything is too confusing, put it down and go back to it when you are ready – at some point, you will be, even if it doesn’t feel like it right now. This is knitting world and there is no schedule.

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Knit for the body you have.
Take your measurements, or have a trusted friend help you take them. Body measurements have no relation to retail sizes, and in knitting world you get to knit for the you that exists in the reality of physical space, with yarn quantities being your only limitation. Knit for the size and shape you are now, and for the fit that brings you comfort. If your size or style preferences change in the future, you can also change your knitting to reflect that when you need to.

Modify patterns.
Change the length, make it a pullover instead of a cardigan, change the gauge, combine one size for the bottom with another size for the top if that’s what’s going to fit you best. Modify the shit out of that pattern if it helps you get the results you want, because you’re the only one with your body and your brain and these things will always make you smarter than whatever pattern you are working from. The pattern is the entry point, and can be made as dynamic as you want.

Occasionally, allow yourself to struggle.
Let yourself sit with a project while you figure out how to do it. Try things out and see if it works. Not everything is going to be easy, but the hard things are usually worth finishing.

Knit the garments you want.
Acknowledge the kinds of things you truly enjoy knitting. The rest of your wardrobe can still be found at the mall.

Remember that nobody is perfect.
Even if they seem like it on the internet. (Especially if they seem like it on the internet). Everyone has their own struggles – even in knitting world – and what some people make look easy, may seem impossible to others. Do your thing. You can create things with your own two hands and some skill, and this is not a small thing. You are a different knitter from the one you were when you started, and from the one you will be a few years from now.

 

Do you have any knitting-related New Year’s resolutions? I haven’t thought of any yet for myself, but I’m still pondering – other than to keep knitting more, and to find something new to try. Which I think is a good place to begin!

Happy New Year, knitter friends!

 

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Knitting out the old, knitting in the new

It’s been a pretty good holiday around these parts, and I’m lucky enough to have carved out just a couple more days of it for myself, with some quiet time to knit and work on pattern notes and projects at whatever pace I feel like. We got a Christmas-card-worthy white Christmas last week and now the temperatures have dropped several degrees below freezing once more, meaning that hibernating inside with knitting for just a bit longer is, in my estimation, quite an acceptable way to finish out 2013.

There will be a bit of final merriment to be sure, but in general I’m very glad to have gotten some good project time in. I let myself cast on a new project on Christmas day as a present to myself, and for a few days just alternated between knitting projects that I felt like working on at the time. This week it’s back to design work again but it’s nice to get a few new things in the mix.

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From top to bottom, these are: Joist Pullover in Cascade 220 Heathers, an upcoming cabled Aran design of my own in Harrisville Highland, and another Pi Shawl started back in September in Malabrigo Sock (eggplant), all in various stages of progress!

(Related: considering making pale eggplant and rustic red my colours for 2014. Well OK, leafy green, you can come too.)

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I also took some time to sort out my closets (yarn stash included) to tidy out some clutter, and will be glad to start the new year with a bit more order in it. I might even sweep out a couple of dusty corners for good measure.

I hope you get some nice knitting time in what remains of 2013, and that your 2014 knitting plans have some new and fun things! Thanks for hanging out here with me for another year, and I wish you many good projects to come in the new year.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like something

December has been rolling along with its own momentum, and knitting continues in the background as I count down the days until I get to have a nice bit of holiday time. One more work day and then I’ll be looking for as much time as I can get to sit and knit, indulge in food and drink, and catch up on a bit of sleep. This year i didn’t even try to schedule myself any gift knitting, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to fit it in, but I’ve got projects I’d like to start fresh for myself over the holidays and that means finishing one or two others as well. I have an extremely ambitious “holiday knitting plans” list, and if it’s fantasyland I don’t even care.

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I’ve been perpetually a day or two behind on my little self-made advent calendar, but also reminding myself not to care too deeply about that. I must say though that it’s nice to see the cards line up all together as a reminder of festivity and effort. And speaking of things adding up, I finally remember today about my little corks collection (free pattern here – from an extremely inventive knitter that is not me), and pulled out some corks to add a few more to it for this year. I’ve got some nice worsted and DK remnants of yarn from the last year and a half or so that are nice to remember past projects with as well, so it’s a nice little treat. And they’re SO CUTE I can hardly stand it.

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We got hit yesterday and overnight with a freezing rain ice storm and power has been off and then on again, so I’m going to spend the rest of my pre-holiday weekend curled up with my knitting and keeping an eye on the nearest flashlight and candles in case of need. At least knitting is an activity that doesn’t require electricity!

Are you a gift knitter this year? If so, I wish you speed and resilience and hope you get everything done when it needs to be.

Here’s looking ahead to a week of festivity! Hope it’s a good one for all of you.

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That final step

It’s an odd thing sometimes with project finishing. If I haven’t got a deadline attached to something, then often my brain will check out and move on once the bulk of the actual knitting is done, and final things like weaving in ends or sewing on buttons will sit there waiting to be done until the very last possible moment of, “oh wait, I need to actually wear this now, so I’d better go ahead and do that.” I think it’s the product of my knitting brain looking for the next challenge, and it usually craves starting a new project altogether over the tedium of finishing. Or maybe I get tripped up on having to go to a separate store to find the buttons, because for some that seems exponentially more tedious than buying the yarn.

But the truth is I don’t actually mind the finishing, because you get finished clothing out of it. And when it comes to sewing up pieces together into a sweater, then you get to see it transform into a collection of flat pieces into a 3-dimensional garment, and that’s pretty great. And then you get to wear it.

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In other words, back in September I finished knitting my Uji cardigan. A few weeks later I even bought buttons for it. But knitting brain had done the aforementioned thing and moved on, and somehow, even though a sweater + buttons isn’t exactly the same thing as a sweater with buttons on it, in my mind it totally was, so I went and did other things. Also, this is a gorgeous and totally bulky, warm, furnace-like sweater. This is not something one casually reaches for when it’s November and still +8C outside. That’s still DK-weight sweater time, and I could wait.

And then, December came. And lo, when December arrived, it brought cold. Last weekend we had snow and daytime temps of -10C, and I finally saw the light and went and took eight minutes out of my life to sew on the frigging buttons. I AM SO GLAD I DID. This sweater basically rules, and I will now promptly spend all winter wearing it for my couch time in the evenings, or maybe for a quick dash outside if it warms up to, you know, freezing.

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I knitted my Uji in Knit Picks Cadena (which I have learned is now sadly discontinued! woe.), which is a bulky-weight wool/alpaca blend. This is pretty much the warmest possible combination of yarn descriptors you could possibly get. Regular wool would be pretty great too, possibly even more ideal since the alpaca content makes it drape more heavily, but I’m happy with how mine turned out. I knitted a size for about 5 inches of positive ease, which I also like for a bulky cabled sweater that is meant for a warm outer layer.

The main modifications I made to the pattern were to shorten it – I removed about 3 inches in overall length, which probably reduced to about 2 inches post-washing and blocking. I also changed how I worked the sleeve cap shaping to use decreases instead of stepped bind-off. I like being able to sew vertical seams when I sew my sleeve caps into my armholes, so that was basically just a personal choice of how I like to construct things. And finally I reduced the number of armhole decreases at the back & front pieces to make the cross-shoulder measurement wider than written, to fit my shoulders. Other than that, I worked it as written. It’s a nice comfy sweater, thanks for the pattern, Ann Marie!

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Happy knitting this fine Thursday! Hope you’re staying warm wherever you are.

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At least you can get a hat out of it

As is typical when I have a lot of different projects to be working on, or when I’ve been working on the same projects for a while and am feeling bored (or both), I’ve been letting myself get a bit distracted by the thought of new knitting projects. I haven’t actually cast on anything new yet, but I’ve gone so far as to print out patterns and read them plan yarn selections – which is sort of almost the same thing, if you can fool your brain into thinking that knitting in your mind is the same thing as knitting in three-dimensional reality.

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Last week the latest issue of Twist Collective came out, and I cast a glance in its direction (as one does), thinking that I’d just return to my regular life afterwards. But there were cabled things in there, and I am sucker for cabled things. Fiona’s Ruddington cardigan would be just up my alley, and I’ve got about three different stash yarns that could jump into action on that right away. But then there is something about the totally ambitious all-over cabling winter-coziness this-sweater-will-keep-you-warm-forever action of Andrea Rangel’s Joist pullover, and I could not stop thinking about it.

The rational side of my brain held me off long enough to realize that maybe I’ll have to wait to cast on for the actual sweater until something else comes off the needles. But then a different part of my brain pointed out that, hey, that is a cabled sweater knitted in the round, and it refers to gauge measurements in the round, and so before you knit the sweater you’re going to have to knit a swatch in the round.

And you know what another word is for ‘swatch knitted in the round?’ Hat. The other word for that is ‘hat.’

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I took a lone skein of Cascade 220 Heathers from my stash (which is the substituted yarn I’m planning to knit the final pullover with), and grabbed some 16″ circulars and sat down last Saturday with some Sleepy Hollow episodes, and I knitted myself a swatch hat. I cast on 100 sts for [k2, p2] ribbing until I felt like I had enough ribbing, then increased to 144 sts so that I could get 6 full repeats of the main stitch pattern in there. Then once I felt it was long enough (after trying it on and checking it out in the mirror a few times) fudged up some decreases within the pattern (consulting with my super handy all-purpose guide on all such things), and then I had a hat.

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It’s not exactly the same thing as getting a sweater of course (well okay it is not really at all in the slightest way the same thing), but it’s enough to help me measure gauge in pattern and to select the pattern size I want to make from the instructions.

And, I get a new hat. Who doesn’t need more hats?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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Self-made merry

December always seems to sneak up on me a little bit. I know it’s coming, of course, but there’s something about expecting there to be the 31st of November following the 30th and then realizing that no no, actually we roll right into December and it’s the last month of the year now. And it’s a busy month, and the month of realizing ‘OH WAIT there’s all that stuff I still meant to do this year can I still fit all of that into one month and also experience holiday craziness’, and seasonal knitting usually crams itself in there. So, in conclusion, December is a little nutty.

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I am fan of advent calendars, though, coming as I do from a Christmas-celebrating household. I often fantasize about being the sort of knitter who plans her time well enough to make a knitted advent calendar (and I know several of you out there are in fact that sort of knitter, which gives you my undying envy) – you know, 24 little hand-knit mittens or pockets or pouches that get hung up with little notes or gifts inside of them. Truthfully, I have the sort of obsessive/impulsive personality that would totally be on board with that, so I haven’t written off the possibility of a future handknit string of advent mittens, but in the mean time I have my own self-made one.

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Last year I got resourceful and cut up a bunch of old Christmas cards (which I always save but let’s face it never do anything with except leave them in a box), wrote down 24 tasks of varying sorts – some for other people (donate to charity), some for myself (knit whatever I want for a day), and some for just plain festive activity (have a holiday-ish drink) – and strung them up one day at a time. The other week I was mentioning the whole enterprise to Julie and she was all, “dude, did you blog about that? Because that is the coolest.”

(Edited to add – I haven’t shared my whole list of 24 things here because, well, it’s for me. ;) But it’s fair to say I’ll be posting of a few of them along the way on my Instagram account.)

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So here I am sharing a little bit of the festive season with you, dear knitters – I hope you have time for your own personal celebrations and reflections as the year winds down. And there’s always time to treat one’s self to some personal knitting projects as well! If you’re staring down a long list of gift knitting or gift shopping to get done in the next few weeks, don’t forget some moments for yourself when things are hectic.

Have a great first week of December ahead!

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Cables understand me

It’s been a busy month – well, busy couple of months, really. October passed in a flurry of holiday visits and Rhinebeck travels, and November has been a busy one for the ol’ day job, not to mention getting sidelined by viral plague for the last week, so knitting activity here at Knitting To Stay Sane has been continuous but varyingly so. I’ve had fits of productivity and then days of going back and forth between current projects and starts at new ones – design swatching and planning, or project dreaming.

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One project I’ve had on the go since fall started is a new cabled sweater design. It’s been in my head for a year and I was desperate to start it. So as September was coming to an end I cast on for this pullover even though I knew I didn’t really have time for it. It’s been a nice comfort to have in the wings, and I am hoping it will be ready to share with all of you in the new year. (There’s going to be a men’s version as well. I’m nothing if not ambitious).

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Some people turn to stockinette or garter stitch to sooth them in hectic times, but for me it’s gotta be cables. Sometimes the knitting brain just wants what it wants. [Edited to add - the yarn is Harrisville Designs 'Highland' - a worsted wool that's a little bit sheepy but still a little bit soft ;)]

What projects are you dreaming about these days? There’s always so much to choose from!

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Rather loose relationship with time

I think one of the oddest things about knitting world has got to be the strange way we experience it as a form of time. Like, “Oh sure I can get that sweater done in two weeks to wear for my birthday party.” Or “Christmas Day is technically only 6 hours away, that’s lots of time to finish this pair of gloves I’ve hardly started. No worries.” Or the fact that sitting on a train for an hour a day each way on my commute isn’t as big a deal because it’s knitting time, as opposed to just “geez why am I not home already I am so tired” kind of time.

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When you add knitting design in there it gets even more bizarre. Sometimes I work on something for self-publication and can have something turned around in exactly whatever amount of time I feel like it, and then if I’m working on something for another publication I could be rushing to get it done in less than a month. The next part is that sometimes, depending on the publication, this could bear no clear relationship whatsoever to when the final pattern sees the light of day. As a designer you roll with it, though, because otherwise we’d just never get anything done.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that a sweater I actually knitted 2 years ago was formally published 2 months ago, and finally my brain has sorted itself out long enough to tell you about it. (And get some photos. I can’t bear myself to announce anything knitted without getting photos of it).

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A couple of years ago my friend Tanis asked me if I would contribute a sweater to her book Knitting Architecture, and it was so delightful a concept that I couldn’t possibly turn that down. It’s a book of women’s sweater and accessory patterns all based on key examples of architectural & design style. Mine was ‘art nouveau’, and the result was this cardigan, named for Alphonse Mucha, a famous artist and all around art nouveau dude.

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It’s a modified-drop-shoulder, kimono-style cardigan meant to be quite loose, drapey, and comfortable, and uses a combination of dynamic cables and textural stitches to evoke the same kind of organic lines that art nouveau was famous for. My original sample was a bit smaller than what I would normally wear for myself, and since my ‘auntie’ Patricia not only is the right size for it but also is a lover of all things art nouveau and deco, I knew the sweater definitely had to go to live with her. After I got it back this fall I went over to her place to grab a few photographs of her in it and the handoff was made.

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The cardigan is knitted in 4 pieces from the bottom up, and then seamed. It’s in worsted weight using Berroco Ultra Alpaca, one of my favourite yarns and a lovely blend of wool and alpaca. Perfect choice for this kind of project. It was a delightful book to be a part of and a great collection of designs to boot. And I’m glad to finally share it with you!

Happy knitting this weekend!

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That time it took me 2 months to get FO photos

So, one of the things I’ve been learning as a relatively new 9-to-5 Toronto commuter (other than a new appreciation for knitting time as an in-transit coping mechanism for, well, commuting), is that it’s a lot darned harder to get Finished Object photos of something when daytime (read: daylight) hours get sucked up by that pesky ‘work’ thing, and call me crazy but I like having daylight in my knitting photos.

Thankfully, I have a fellow knitter as a co-worker, so we finally squeezed in a moment on coffee break last week to get me some photos of the Locke St. cardigan I finished back in the middle of September. Sweater photos! With me in them and everything!

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I’ve been wearing this sweater at least once a week since the fall chill arrived and couldn’t be more pleased with it. I did it in Tanis Fiber Arts DK in ‘sprout’, one of the newer colour-ways from Spring 2013. I’m loving the cables and the shawl collar and would actually not rule out doing another one of these for myself in another colour, some time in the future. (So many knits, so little time).

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I published this pattern almost 2 years ago, and took the time to update the pattern while I was knitting my own sample of it. The pattern notes now include an additional size on the smaller range, and now includes bust sizes 33(35, 38, 41, 44, 48, 51, 55) ins bust, when worn closed. I’ve also updated the schematic to include a bit more detail, and modified the shoulders to be a bit narrower, based on knitter feedback. Overall, though, it’s still the same cabley-goodness cardigan it’s always been, and works pretty well for my 9-to-5 wardrobe, I must say!

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You can find the Locke St. cardigan Ravelry store as usual, and also on Patternfish.

In conclusion, finished handknits are fabulous, as are photographs of them. What finished knits are you itching to get photographs of for your Ravelry project pages?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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