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Winter logic

It’s that time of year around these parts when it seems like winter is actually going to be here forever. You do sometimes have moments of thinking, “hey, maybe tomorrow I can leave the house wearing regular shoes instead of the same salt-stained winter boots I’ve had on since late November.” And then you look at the weather report and it becomes clear to you that no, actually, that brief “warm spell” around freezing last week was just a momentary glitch, a seventh-inning stretch before settling in to make the game last as long as possible. This is about 99.9% of the reason why when summer arrives, we can’t quite fully grasp it and so we can’t stop talking about how hot it is, because surely cold is the only option.

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The odd thing knitting-wise is that I’ve realized that what I’m actually knitting on right now (wool sweaters), and the projects I’m thinking about casting on for (hint: more wool sweaters), are things that I mostly want to be wearing already. As though knitting them is almost the same thing as already wearing them. I don’t know, man, at this point in winter I think logic abandons all hope and we all go slightly feral, clutching the nearest yarn that looks good. This Saturday I’ll be up in Peterborough at Needles in the Hay to teach some classes, and I’m pretty sure some new yarn is going to come home with me! Something new and fun. Probably also wooly.

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One of the wooly things I imagine myself already wearing instead of just knitting is my Joist pullover in progress – not least because it’s going to be a super warm cabley sweater, but also because while it IS a lovely neutral shade of purple-grey, I think my brain needs to look at some yarn in a different colour during March. I foresee some leafy-green or bright red knitting projects in my future! Or at the very least, some stash diving to put some nice new piles of yarn on deck.

Winter, am I right? Thank goodness there’s knitting to be done.

Stay warm and cozy out there!

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Pattern: Joist Pullover, from Twist Collective by Andrea Rangel
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, in Liberty Heather
Project bag from Three Bags Full.

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Pretty nice weekend

Last weekend was a long weekend, with a holiday Monday both here and in the United States, so I took the opportunity to flee slightly south to D.C., to spend the weekend hanging out with a bunch of knitter friends in the area. I did the same thing last year over the same weekend, when there was much nicer weather, and it was great. This time I arrived just in time for the city to get hit with a huge snow storm, so there was a lot less touristy perusal of museums and monuments, but thankfully there was plenty of time to sit around with friendly people, knit, drink wine, and generally have a relaxing time. In case you are wondering, a weekend filled with those activities is lacking in…nothing. Nothing at all. (Well, maybe shopping. We did a smidge of that too.)

All weekends should look like this! Hope you’ve got a good one coming up. And that the winter hibernation ends soon, if you’re in the same hemisphere as me. (I’ve forgotten what green grass looks like. I hear it’s the stuff buried under the snowbanks. Stories have been reported that it might still be there.)

Happy knitting!

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Deep into it

I’ve had a couple of design projects on the go for the last few months. They are sweater projects each involving 2 samples for one design, so it’s taking me a bit longer than normal, and I like them both and can’t wait until they’re done for the world to consume, but combine project fatigue with January deep freeze and my brain is starting to long for a new project. Anything would do, really. Like, maybe a pair of mitts and a hat, just to take the edge off?

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So really I have no rational explanation for the fact that I knew all of this about myself and still cast on for a new sweater project over the Christmas holidays – and not just a quick hit, either, but an all-over cabled sweater. I don’t know, man, it seemed like a normal decision at the time. I mean seriously, anybody looking for reason and logic should take notice of knitting and then just keep on walking. I shouldn’t really be craving another large sweater project but as it turns out I’m still liking going back to this in turn, turning out a few cabled rounds of it every so often. I think it helps that it’s worsted-weight wool, which at this time of year feels pretty comfortable just to hold on the needles.

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Even though I’m no stranger to cabled projects, I don’t usually do all-over cabled sweaters and so this is a nice variation on cabled technique which is also refreshing. Variation in how a technique gets used still lets every different project stand out a bit.

Also, I don’t know about you, but any knitting time these days is still a good time – we’re still not out of the super chill zone here and watching the snow blow around from my office window just makes me cast longing glances at the knitting waiting for me in my handbag. This is the knitter’s season for sure.

I hope you’ve got some fun projects waiting for you at home, and a warm beverage or three to go with it!

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Pattern: Joist Pullover, from Twist Collective by Andrea Rangel
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, in Liberty Heather
Project bag from Three Bags Full.

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Relatively speaking

I suppose it says something about me as a knitter that not only do I have different categories of projects in mind for different situations (transit knitting, TV knitting, will-fit-in-handbag knitting), but that those categories include one for movie-theatre knitting. And not only that but the relative ease/difficulty level that passes for those situations is actually pretty dynamic. I used to keep stockinette socks for movie theatre knitting until I realized that I needed something just a titch more interesting even for sitting in the dark, so now I knit ribbed socks in the movies.

In the fall, though, as I was heading out to the movies I realized I didn’t really have a pair of ribbed socks on the go and didn’t have time to start a pair right then, so I grabbed the easiest thing I had already on the needles which happened to be my Pi Shawl.

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It made sense at the time because for most of it, you’re just knitting plain knit stitches all the way around and around and around, broken up every 6th round with a [k2tog, yo] repeat all the way around. And eventually there are increase rounds according to Elizabeth Zimmerman’s instructions, so those take a bit of concentration too, but the stockinette sections are pretty great. So far I haven’t dropped a stitch on it, even in the dark purple Malabrigo sock. I’m finding that I don’t mind having another one of these large shawls continuously on the go for several months if it keeps in the rotation as movie knitting. This shawl has seen Thor 2, Catching Fire (twice), The Hobbit, and American Hustle, and I’ll probably take it to see Gravity this weekend. (Well, I’ll see Gravity anyway. The shawl will continue contentedly being a shawl, just in a movie theatre.) I like that knitting becomes a little social record of events in that way.

Do you have exciting knitting plans for the weekend? I hope you get some good project time in, and stay warm! Brr, the chill continues around here.

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (July shawl), directions in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman
Yarn: Malabrigo Sock, in ‘eggplant’

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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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