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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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A Giveaway Winner, and Yarn Chatter

Wow, so many of you commented on my giveaway post, with so many fabulous fall knitting plans! I particularly salute those of you who are already on top of your holiday gift knitting, because I have to admit that hasn’t even crossed my scattered mind yet. I wish I had more than one skein of yarn to give away, but as it is I’m pleased to announce a winner, thanks to the friendly neighbourhood random number generator. And it’s wee number 16 that pulls the winning prize! Congrats to Lynn Scott, commenting on Oct 29th. Lynn, I’ll be in touch about getting your prize to you.

RANDOM.ORG   True Random Number Service

In other news, let’s talk a little bit about yarn – specifically, knowing how much to buy! Last week after my Rhinebeck yarn haul post, a couple of you asked about how does a person know how much yarn to buy for a particular kind of project? It’s something we all have to grapple with when buying a new batch of yarn.

This is often made easier if you know you’re going to be making a small project. For example, “sock yarn” tends to come in 100g-ish skeins that are the right amount for an average pair of socks (but get two if you’re making socks for large men’s feet). In fact, you can usually get a single project out of something with at least 100g in it, like a hat or a pair of mitts. My Squall Hat pattern, for example, takes a single 100g skein of chunky yarn, and the Union Station beret also takes a single 100g skein even though it’s worsted weight, not chunky.

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Larger projects, on the other hand, are trickier. Once you get into the habit of making large projects like sweaters, or even blankets (do people knit multiple blankets? I knitted one like five years ago and am just now recovering), you start to know how much yarn to grab. For me, I know that 7 or so 100g skeins of something (like Cascade 220 worsted-weight, below) will be enough for a sweater. I can get away with 6 skeins if it’s not terribly complex or cabley (cables eat up yarn more so than stockinette or knit/purl textured patterns), or if I’m doing 3/4 sleeves instead of full sleeves. I know this because I’ve made a lot of sweaters for myself, so I’ve had practice picking out yarn.

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If you haven’t had a lot of practice picking out yarn for your own large projects, though, or if you’re knitting a sweater for someone else, you can do two things: 1) be at the mercy of the yarn requirements for the pattern, or 2) estimate based on standardized guidelines like these, or, more popularly, these, in a leaflet which is frequently sold at yarn shops right near the counter. (Also makes a nice knitter gift!) The trick with #1 is that you need to know what pattern you are going to make in advance of purchasing the yarn, which doesn’t always happen. Some of us would argue that this rarely happens, in fact. (It’s just so easy to get taken in by beautiful yarn sometimes.) So, in that case we end up resorting to #2 and going in with an estimate based on chest circumference of the finished garment.

In either of these instances, you need to know a few things off the top of your head, especially if you end up chatting with a friendly yarn shop employee for advice on your purchasing needs:
-What size garment am I going to be making with this?
-Do I think it’s going to have a whack of cables and bobbles and fussy yarn-eating stitches on it?
-Do I think I’m going to have to modify a standard pattern to add or subtract yarn? i.e. is my body likely to be shorter/longer/smaller/bigger than what standard patterns are written for? (I say this as a Tall Person who frequently adds length to sweater bodies and sleeves. My friend Jessie who is 8 inches shorter than me has the opposite problem).

The other piece of advice here that you’ll tend to hear a lot, is always buy an extra ball/skein of yarn if you can help it. It just does not hurt to have the extra just in case. If you keep that extra skein tucked away with your original yarn store receipt (without winding up the skein and making sure not to lose any labels or anything), you can most likely return it if you don’t end up needing it. Or, you can keep it and make a hat or pair of mitts or something else small for yourself or a gift. Unless the yarn is very preciously priced or comes in very large skeins, erring on the side of extra is just plain sensible.

Have you developed your own ‘system’ for remembering project amounts? Do you keep an index card of project yardage in your wallet for emergencies, or have other helpful steps at the ready? Share them in the comments and we’ll all be excited to learn them.

Have a great Thursday afternoon! Hopefully with some knitting in it, and a refreshing (adult?) beverage at the end of the day.

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A Yarn Giveaway

About a week ago, our autumn took a sharp turn at the traffic lights from Gentle Late Summer Breeze to Holy Crap Where Is My Winter Coat. And although I’ve been really looking forward to the arrival of Sweater Season, I forgot that that also tends to coincide with Hat, Mitt, Cowl, and Scarf Season, and promptly went digging around for all of those things I put away many months ago.

This is good timing, since a little while ago the fine folks over at Mountain Colors yarns sent me a couple of skeins of their new Bozeman yarn, which is a thick-and-thin bulky yarn that is pretty well perfect for quick warm accessories, or even a big huge blanket if you were of a mind to dive in to such a project.

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It’s 100% wool, thick-and-thin, in all of the beautiful Mountain Colors colours, and quick enough to knit that it really is quite embarrassing that I haven’t knitted more on this yet. I must have, uh, been finishing up a couple of Rhinebeck sweaters or something, heh. Because there’s some nice variation in colour and texture already, I decided to keep things super simple and just do a long garter stitch ‘scarf’ over about 25 sts, that I’ll then sew up the ends on and make into a big warm cowl once I’ve got it as long as it wants to be.

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Luckily for you folks, they sent me a 2nd skein to give away to a knitter – and that knitter could be you!

To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post between now and Thursday noon (EST), telling me what your favourite fall knitting project is right now. Thursday afternoon I’ll pick a winner and make sure the skein of yarn comes your way.

Good luck, and happy knitting this evening!

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But it’s really not all about the yarn, I swear

As Stephanie so nicely put it, the best part of Rhinbeck is being around friends and a lot of other people who don’t think knitting is silly. It’s a really great thing to be amongst your people like that, and know that if you stop someone dead in their tracks to ask them what a) they are knitting b) they are wearing c) they are going to knit with that yarn they are holding d) colour they are going to buy because that blue yarn they are holding looks way better than the blue one they put down, it’s all fine. People usually get it, in a way that you can’t usually count on when you’re mingling with the non-knitter people in everyday life.

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And really, if you’re going to travel all that way and spend all that time on a weekend trip, only to buy yarn and then bring it home again and skip over all the other parts of getting to hang out with nice people and drink wine in the evening (and maybe eat lots of cheese plate dinners, not that I would know anything about that), then you’re definitely missing the whole picture.

Having said that, though, uh. I bought some yarn. I mean, let’s not pretend it isn’t partly about the yarn, right?

I am proving to be quite a creature of habit with my Rhinebeck purchases – I bought from the same 3 vendors as I did last year, and I looked a ton of other great stuff that I am reminding myself to save up some cash for next year. I suppose when confronted with such a huge amount of selection, it’s easy to retreat to familiar ground. Well, not retreat, perhaps – embrace.

I snagged a couple of skeins of Socks That Rock Mediumweight (above) from The Fold, in Grawk and another colour whose name I forget at the moment. I always include a couple new pairs of ribbed socks in my knitting rotation during the year, and STR Mediumweight just goes by so nice and quickly. I also hemmed and hawed over a sizeable Green Mountain Spinnery purchase, but felt pretty good bringing this pile of DK-weight wool/alpaca blend in a nice deep red. I don’t know what this will be yet (I don’t usually, to be honest), but it’s nice to look at while I figure it out.

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I also stood in a Very Long Line to grab an armload of Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein. It’s a nice superwash wool in worsted weight and lovely colours, and I had started out with only one sweaters worth and then upped that as the time in line started to grow. It wasn’t the worst line ever, because so many people walk by you while you’re in it that you eventually start to see familiar faces to say hi to, but a person still wants to make it worth the investment. So here are 2 sweaters worth, in Beachglass and Talking in My Sleep. mmmm, fun yarn times ahead.

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And that’s the yarn-ish wrap-up! Believe me I have more knitting plans for the coming fall and winter than I know what to do with (Shorter: All The Sweater Knitting Fantasies), but I’ll manage somehow, I know I will.

Happy knitting this weekend!

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Another year of knitting tourism

Rhinebeck weekend has come and gone for another year, and once again it was a great time and went by all too quickly! I will allow that I am very glad to have my own bed to sleep in again, but it is a real bummer that my usual schedule does not come with a rented house full of friendly knitters, and daily ginormous cheese plates. (And I really do mean ginormous). Although let’s face it, probably it’s better for my waistline about that last part.

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It was a good time, though, and I even managed to snap a few photos. There were several knitters out there wearing knits from patterns of mine, and that was a very exciting thing to see out in the wild!

I saw a few fabulous Chatelaine and Jurisfiction cardis that I regretfully did not get photos of myself (sometimes the brain can only act so quickly on fair day!) There were also a few gorgeous Royales out there:

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Rhinebeck-RoyaleJessie

This intrepid knitter and I both had our completed Burrard cardigans (and she even added cables to the sleeves of hers, like a genius):

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And this lovely Peterborough knitter whose name I have also totally forgotten, wore her lovely Locke St. cardigan:

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There was also a lot of fair food (mmm, cheese-covered fries…), standing in lines (I think I saw all of the fair pass me by while standing in the epically long Miss Babs line), and sit-on-the-couch-and-drink-wine-with-friends time, which is of course the best part.

And of course there was shopping! I’ll be sure to be back next post to report on the goods. There’s always so much to look at and so many hard decisions to make.

I hope your Tuesday has some great knitting in it! Until next time,

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The Rhinebeck sweater

I’m looking forward (as are many other knitters across the continent and beyond, no doubt) to my annual trip to Rhinebeck next weekend, and it’s a toss up whether the knitting time and yarn time are a bigger draw over getting to spend time with knitter friends I usually only see in the internet, or vice versa. As I’ve been knitting away on sweaters the last few months I’ve had Rhinebeck in the back of my mind as the goal wearing time for them as well, since a lot of knitters generally make Rhinebeck the knitting deadline for a finished project they want to wear. My Locke St. cardigan is definitely going to be coming with me, as it is now finished (I really am going to get photos of it, I swear), but after I finished that one I started right away on a Burrard cardigan as a second one.

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This one has been my train knitting for the last month or so, and I’m really loving how it’s turning out so far. I’m actually onto the second of the fronts which means that all that remains after that is the finishing and the collar. It’s non-negligible, but I sort of realized that the part of my brain that is happy that Rhinebeck is now just a week and a half away is not the same part of my brain that would normally point out that a week and a half is really not a fully expansive amount of time, and this will be cutting things a bit finely especially if I plan to get any other knitting done during the same time (which I do).

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I think it’ll be good, though. The nice thing about being Canadian in all of this is that Rhinebeck weekend is preceded by our Thanksgiving weekend, which includes a holiday Monday, which of course means more knitting time. (Do holidays mean something else? I would find that hard to believe.) Although I do need to track down buttons, I’ve got enough yarn, that I am sure of (it’s Madelinetosh DK, in ‘oxblood’), and I’ve been in lots tighter Rhinebeck knitting spots before.

I do have one little snafu to go back and correct – Madelinetosh yarn is beautiful but also prone to dye lot inconsistency, and when I switched skeins at the top of a sleeve cap I neglected to alternate rows for a bit to ease the transition, and well, now I have a dark splotch at the top of the sleeve. (I remembered to alternate rows when I switched skeins on the body, though, so it was a decent cautionary moment.) It’s a small fix, but one I’ll have to go back to all the same.

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Then all that will be left is to hope the weather cooperates and brings some sweater-appropriate temperatures! Fingers crossed all around.

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

 

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