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On a Tuesday

So It turns out that when you knit a Pi Shawl and then post photos about it on the internet, not only do you get the finished shawl but you also get lots of interest and curiosity. Many of you had more questions about how to do the Pi Shawl or similar projects, so here I’ll try to follow up on some of them!

1. “But what kind of pattern are you using for the pattern? And where are all the increases?

So, the thing about Elizabeth Zimmerman’s patterns is that she does a lot of conversational “you-can-do-this-because-you’re-a-knitter-with-a-brain” kind of instructions mixed with “knitting-is-also-my-life-story-here-let-me-tell-you-parts-of-it”, especially in the Knitter’s Almanac. But then she always follows it with a quick-and-dirty (or ‘pithy’ as she calls it) instructions for the project, which you are usually free to customize however you want. It’s an entirely different style of pattern writing than what many of us have become used to in the current moment of knitting pattern writing. And it makes for good bathtub reading. You know, if you, uh, are the sort of person who would want to do that sort of thing.

However, the advantage here (along with ultimately making you a more confident knitter – which is the goal, always) is that there are usually a few variations for every pattern. The Pi Shawl, straight up, is written as a circular shawl in the round, where increase rounds are done as [k1, yo] repeated all the way around. The increase round always double the stitches on the round. So, you’re going to have yarnover rounds anyway when you do the increases. The variation does this the same way AND installs a yarnover round every 6th round also, in the form of [k2tog, yo]. This is both visually appealing as a pattern AND is intended to camouflage the yarnover increase rounds by making them part of a repeating pattern, essentially.

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2. “How does blocking work? I want to know more about that.”

Blocking is a pretty magical thing. You’re most likely to encounter blocking as a part of sweater projects and lace shawl project. In either case, blocking is part of the final stage of the project where you pin out the finished item or its constituent parts (many knitters prefer to block the finished individual sweater pieces and then do the seaming and finishing, others prefer to seam first and then block the final garment)  to the intended size and shape. Most often this also involves adding some moisture to the fabric so that the fibres relax and allow themselves to be pinned out into the desired shape. (This is especially the case with wool, by the way – it’s nice and elastic).

Below is a shot of my Peacock Feathers shawl – in Tanis Fiber Arts mulberry silk in ‘velvet’ – which I knitted 3 years ago and finished while I was attending Sock Summit. (I really wanted to wear it on my birthday, which fell during that trip). Because I knew I was going to be finishing it on the trip, I brought my blocking pins – I use T-pins like what quilters use – with me in my suitcase (you know, as one does) and pinned it out for blocking on the hotel bed in the middle of the afternoon. (It was all fine. If housekeeping noticed, they didn’t say anything). This is actually a desirable spot to use for blocking in general, albeit usually it’s your own bed not a hotel bed, since it’s a large flat space that is amenable to pinning out a large object. Alternately, you can use a patch of carpet, or a bunch of foam interlocking mats laid out on the floor.

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You can also acquire blocking wires which are designed to be threaded through the little lacy tips of finished shawls, and are a bit nicer to use than pinning out individual little pins all the way around the edge – particularly for large shawls. I don’t actually own a set of my own so still tend to use the pins, but i’ve borrowed them before and definitely recommend them if you’re looking for birthday gift requests.

In conclusion: blocking, it’s pretty great.

Also, just as a bonus, here is a (distant) photo of Nathan Fillion, who I saw on Sunday at the Toronto Fan Expo convention. Which actually has very little to do with knitting or shawls, except for the fact that the smattering of Jayne hats (which Firefly fans knit and wear happily in homage to one episode) in the audience did make me wonder why I haven’t actually gone and knitted myself a Jayne hat yet, since I darned well could. One of these days, I will totally get around to that. And in any case, Nathan Fillion is delightful.

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Have a great Tuesday!

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Worth it

About a week ago, I gave my finished Pi Shawl a little cold-water bath in the sink and laid it out for blocking. In the process, it looked something like this:

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That’s a relatively mediocre iPod Touch photo, but you get the gist. Essentially, it took all the blocking pins I had and covered most of the span of a double-bed-sized flat sheet laid out over a carpeted floor. It turns out a circle made with 1250 yards of fingering weight yarn on 5.0mm needles results in a fairly substantial shawl. (You can also tell pretty easily from that photo that the skein that formed the centre of the circle was noticeably lighter than the outer 2 skeins. At least when this happens on a circular project, you don’t have to worry so much about dye lot differences interrupting the finished look of the project.)

Now, post-blocking (and a bit of wearing), it looks like this:

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I measured the final size at about 5-and-a-half-feet across, which is big enough that it’s even hard to find a surface to drape it over for easy photographing. It turns out you have to go find a fence to accommodate that.

Am I complaining about the finished size? Abso-freaking-lutely not. I love it. I’m a 5-foot-9-inch-tall gal and a bit of extra length on a shawl is just fine by me.

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I like the simplicity and versatility of this pattern, because it really is good for all occasions. It can be a wrap-up-while-watching-TV shawl or a drape-over-the-couch-for-whenever-you-need-it shawl, but is pretty darned fine as an I-am-impossibly-elegant-while-wearing-this-with-jeans-even-though-I’m-only-dashing-out-for-Starbucks shawl. Anything goes.

In her pattern instructions (well, more like guidelines, really) in the Knitter’s Almanac, Elizabeth Zimmerman gives you a few options for finishing the border. If I did this pattern a 3rd time (because this is actually my 2nd go at it), I’d probably go for one of the lacier border options, but the garter stitch edge is simple and practical and does the trick. It also lets you conserve brain cells right up until the very end of the project, and save them for other more complicated knits in your life.

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In the end I worked (I think) 70 rounds of the final section, and if I’d stopped at 60 that would have been fine too – and probably would be an adviseable stopping place for shawl-wearers more petite than I. I judged the final length by holding up the width from centre to outside edge against my arm, and when it felt like I was just about at half of my own ‘wingspan’, I stopped the rounds and started the knitted-on border. It’s the sort of project that lets you do that kind of thing, without encumbering you with too much decision-making. That Elizabeth Zimmerman was pretty groovy, I tell you what.

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I won’t lie, there’s probably going to be a 3rd one of these shawls in my knitting life. I don’t know when exactly, but it’ll happen. A girl can never have too many shawls, can she?

Happy knitting this fine weekend!

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

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A photo finish if ever there was one

Last week, the day after my previous blog post, I took myself up for a day trip to hang with some knitter friends in Peterborough (because they and Peterborough are both delightful, and I need to visit there more often than I do), and I still had the Pi Shawl to content with along the way. On the bus ride up I knitted away on the border, now well into the 2nd half of it, and kept checking the yarn quantity that was left. The more I kept knitting, the more I decided that I should really make peace with the likelihood that I was not going to make it. The little ball of yarn just kept getting littler, and I realized that if I did need to go and get a 4th skein of yarn, it was going to be for something ridiculous like 5 yards of that skein. So, I reasoned with myself, I could just use the rest and make a pair of fingerless mitts to match the shawl.

And then, lo and behold – I finished the shawl.

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It was by a nose – just 2g of yarn remaining from that 3rd ball, but I did it. Over post-lunch beers I picked up stitches from the original border cast-on and MacGuyvered a three-needle bind-off (because generally you do that with live stitches on both sides, but I figured it was a nice clean finish for the joined border ends), and then it was DONE.

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My relief, let me show you it.

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I still need to block the sucker (it’s a bit of an undertaking), but that’ll happen soon enough. Hurray for completed shawls!

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

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And now for some back-and-forth

I’m still working away at the Pi Shawl – it’s the only thing I’ve been knitting on for the last week in fact, and knitter friends, I’d really thought I was going to be finished it by now. I’m doing a stint of cat-minding for fellow knitter friend Lisa here in Toronto, and boy howdy did I ever figure I was going to be well on my way knitting happily on one of the other 2 projects I brought with me. But no, these big circular shawls (on, uh, fingering weight yarn) do take their time, so all right, I can keep knitting. Back and forth, on the wee garter stitch knitted-on edging.

I’d sort of figured on that part – the knitting forever part. Once you get to the almost-600-sts rounds, every completed round starts to feel like cause for celebration, but then once you do several dozen of them…yeah. But I’ve done the Pi Shawl before so I saw that coming and have just been hunkering down and knitting my way through it. There’s no specific number of rounds required once you get to that last section, because it all depends on the yarn and needle size you’re using, and how big you want the shawl. So when I got to a width that looked wingspan-ish I stopped the shawl knitting and started the border, and I figured on that taking a while since I’m a tall-ish gal.

The part that I didn’t count on was that I’d get halfway through the border and realize with a sinking feeling that I am probably really for sure going to run out of yarn. Hahahah.

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Which in and of itself isn’t the worst thing ever – I mean, it’s Malabrigo Sock in a new colourway, so it should be find-able in a few different places – but for the part where I really thought I was going to be done and oh wait a minute, you mean if I’d saved myself from doing a few of those almost-600-sts rounds I wouldn’t be twitchily watching the ball get smaller and smaller while I still have at least a third of the border left to go? I could have kept myself from two agonies at once?

HAH HAH. GOOD ONE KNITTING, that’s some sense of humour you have there. IT SURE IS.

I’m going to keep knitting and if I have to go to a yarn store to get my way knitted to the end of it, then by gar I may not be held responsible if I have to buy a new skein of something else to take the edge off. Fall’s coming and this girl needs to start some sweaters.

May your knitting this evening have plentiful yarn and a refreshing beverage to go with it!

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

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Classic Color – A new collection

Note: Hi there! If you’re knitting away on one of these patterns and have encountered a question or concern, please feel free to contact me directly via email me directly at crazy.knitting.lady[at]gmail[dot]com, and I will be happy to be of assistance as best I can, as soon as I can. Thank you and happy knitting!

Last winter, I knitted a lot of things and wrote a lot of patterns. A number of them finally went live this week, and it’s very exciting to see them again in their formal debut – especially because it’s been long enough since I made my own samples of them that it’s almost like seeing them for the first time. It’s tempting to cast on a whole new set of samples for myself!

Presenting my Classic Color collection, available in e-book, book, or individual e-download form from Knit Picks! All patterns are currently available exclusively from Knit Picks until January 2014, and in this collection you’ll find a variety of cozy, classic, stranded color-work patterns for fall and winter wear.

The set includes 6 patterns – a circular yoke cardigan, lightweight fair isle vest, hat and mittens, bulky cowl, and worsted weight boot socks. For easy at-a-glance reference you can find the pattern listings (and individual pattern download links, if you’d prefer not to grab the whole e-book just yet) in my Ravelry design page.

Special thanks to the Knit Picks team for all their work and support in the pattern process – everything from the sample knitting and yarn support to their beautiful photography and styling was just fantastic. Thank you, Knit Picks folks!

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This certainly brings a whiff of fall knitting into the air – and I must admit I am looking forward to the cool days when bundling up in wool is back to being an everyday event. You can snag the entire collection here, if you want to join in some color-work fall dreams!

Happy knitting this weekend – I hope you get some great progress on your current projects.

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Around and around

August around these parts can be a bit of everything when you’re a knitter. It’s close enough to fall that you’re well within your rights to begin casting on sweaters, since finishing them around the time the weather turns cool is actually now a possibility. At the same time, we’ve got at least a month of summer temperatures on the calendar around here, so by all means lace shawls are still on the docket too.

Also around these parts, a few months ago we got a new local yarn shop (local to me in Hamilton, that is – we’ve got others in the area and certainly lots in Toronto, but this is one that I can actually get on my bike and be there in 20 minutes, I can’t even stand it it’s so exciting), and in July I taught a beginner lace class there. Among other things, I brought my own circular Pi Shawl as a sample, and somehow by the time the class was over I had convinced them to do a shop knitalong. Pi Shawls for everyone!

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They carry several different kinds of sock-weight/fingering-weight yarn at Handknit, so there’s a nice range of choice to make a Pi Shawl that is still a little on the lighter side but will be cozy when folded-over double. The Pi Shawl is circular, and comes with a few variations of plain stockinette, eyelet rows, or more intricate lace panels, so it offers a nice repetitive project for new lace knitters. It’s also good for transit knitting, since you’re just going around and around and around until it’s done.

Mine’s in Malabrigo Sock, and even though the knitalong hasn’t officially started yet, I had sort of started a fantasy world wherein I finish this before the knitalong start on Sunday, then, uh, I start another one. What can I say, knitting is nothing if not a rich fantasy life.

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The construction of the circle, as written, happens by doubling the number of stitches every time you double the number of rounds (after 3, 6, 12, 24, etc), and so it starts out very quickly. But eventually, of course, you reach the stage where you have almost 600 sts on the needles all at once, and that’s where I am now. When it’s (one day, hopefully soon) off the needles, it’ll be a gorgeous airy circle, but while it’s still on the 24-inch circular, it more closely resembles a bunched up jellyfish. I’ll get there, though, perseverance is key.

Around and around, and onwards. What are you knitting on this week? I hope you’re in a place to get something finished this month.

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

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From arts camp in the woods

Dear knitters

This week I’m away teaching for my summer week-long stint at the Haliburton School of The Arts summer workshops, or what I affectionately think of as arts camp in the woods. I’ve got a cozy group of knitters (some familiar faces in the mix too from previous years), and it’s been a good week so far.

Yesterday was my birthday, and one fab knitter in the group brought a cake. (Thanks, Sue! You pass.)

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And there’s been good project progress so far, and some relaxing knitting time in the evenings (maybe with a glass of wine or two), so all in all not too shabby.

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Tonight I’m planning to make some more time on my Pi Shawl, in Malabrigo sock. I hear tell there’s a knitalong in August. at the Handknit Yarn Studio in Hamilton, and I want to be all prepped and ready.

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Hope you’re having a great time wherever you’re knitting this week! Catch you again in a few days.

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Knitters in the city

This past Saturday marked the return of what has become an annual event, the TTC Knitalong in Toronto! We gather in various teams in different places throughout the city, everyone gets a chance to shop at a selection of yarn shops (which we are lucky to have many of in Toronto), and along the way we take public transit and knit. Then at the end of the day we collect as a group, think ambitious thoughts about our new purchases, draw a few prizes, and also end up with a small pile of money to give to charity (For five years in a row we have donated all proceeds to Sistering). This event started several years ago from more humble beginnings – just 3 teams, and a different yarn shop landscape than the present day – but has grown bigger every year while keeping the same goals in mind. Knit, travel through the city, buy some great yarn, and have a good time with other knitters! We had our biggest year ever this time.

We always wish we could fit the entire knitting population of the GTA with us, but fitting in 100 knitters plus team captains is pretty great!

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We had a few new-to-the-Knitalong shops in the mix this year, including Creative Yarns in Scarborough, which was the starting point for my team! They were fabulous and got us off to a great start. From there we travelled by bus and subway to The Purple Purl, then by streetcar to Romni Wools, and a walk to Americo before our final destination at the Rivoli pub on Queen St. West. We used all forms of public transit including our own feet, and by the end of the day were very happy to have a cool drink and some seated knitting time! And of course, lovingly hold our new purchases.

Thank you to everyone who participated in the event this year, including all the Toronto yarn shops who were generous with their shopping discounts, prize sponsors (Patternfish, Westminster Fibers, Turtlepurl Yarns, Waterloo Wools, Tanis Fiber Arts, Indigodragonfly, Knitty.com, and more!), and of course all the delightful knitters making it a fun day.

If you missed us this year, I can highly recommend grabbing a few TTC day passes, a few knitting friends, and making your own fun day – maybe even with a pub or two in there, or a lovely dessert stop? The world of Toronto knitting is vast and there’s great yarny times to be had.

Here are a few snaps from my team – I’ll be back later on to show off some of my new purchases too!

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It’s always sweater season

If a person (well, a knitter) were to, say, cast on a bulky cabled cardigan in the middle of winter, you probably would not think this was at all strange. If said knitter were to let that sweater-in-progress sit idle for a couple of months and then pick it up again at the beginning of July when the outside temperatures are starting to reach unspeakable levels…well maybe that might get a few looks, I suppose.

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But you know, last week that’s just what I did. I remembered my Uji cardigan that I started back at the end of February but had to set aside while I finished All The Other Things. I reasoned that since I was already half done with it I could make some decent progress on it even if I only picked it up for an hour or so at a time. It turns out I had done the back and one full sleeve and had started the second one, and now after a bit of air-conditioned-cold-basement knitting I’m past the sleeves and onto one of the fronts. (Knit Picks Cadena, in cranberry – pattern from Twist Collective).

It’s a bit nonsensical to be knitting a sweater like this in the dead heat of summer, to be honest, but as fellow knitter friend Jessie pointed out to me, if you don’t knit these things in the summer, they won’t be ready for you to wear in October. And you know, that’s logic I can understand.

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This was also part of a plan last week to hold myself off from immediately casting on four new projects all at the same time, which is a dangerous impulse when I’m so fresh from finishing a bunch of deadlines. To help that along I also knitted up a few swatches – these are future sweaters that I’d like to work on for the fall (or during the fall, depending on timing I suppose), and I love all of them and have been looking at them with great affection the last few days. They are, since I know folks will ask, top to bottom: Knit Picks Wool of the Andes sport, Harrisville Highland worsted, and Berocco Ultra Alpaca (both purples). Pre-sweaters, if you will.

Turns out sweater knitting is always the right answer.

Hope you’re having a good Friday and that your weekend is filled with some knitting time!

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Digging deep

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So, here’s the thing. Now that I’ve suddenly revived my affection for the Jaywalker sock pattern, I’m not sure I’m going to be able to stop any time soon. I mean, I’m still going to knit other things besides Jaywalkers, of course, but it turns out that finishing one pair means that I just have to cast on a new pair right away. A few years ago I knitted myself a full week’s worth of Jaywalkers (plus a couple of extra), and you know, I think I might need a new week’s worth of them. Plus, I’m a firm believer in following your knitting-obsessed brain where ever it wants to lead you at the time, so bring it on, I say.

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I finished up my green pair last week, along with my Charlotte St. mitts, and I took the opportunity to dig deep into my sock yarn stash for the next pair. This is more Lorna’s Laces shepherd sock, in a limited edition colourway from the original Sock Summit in 2009. Yep, this stuff is 4-year-old stash. Old enough that it’s almost hard to start knitting it up, because then it won’t be stash anymore. If it was a cheddar cheese I’d almost be thinking about saving it for weekend wine & cheese, rather than just any old snack time. I even took a few moments to lovingly photograph it in its skeins, because once you wind it up then you don’t have it in pretty skeined form, and isn’t that sort of a shame?

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Perhaps unsurprisingly, the colourway is called ‘vampire tea party’, showing off a nice gothic dark grey-and-red combination. Also unsurprisingly, I am just as enamoured with the name as I am with the actual colours. And since I had a mostly dark colourway come off the needles, I’m happy to turn to a slightly bright colourway for this next pair. It’s nice to have variety in the sock drawer, after all.

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Sweaters and swatches are also getting back into the mix though, for sure, so I’ll be sure to report more on that next time! I hope you’re staying cool in the summer heat (at least, if you’re in a northern hemisphere clime), and that you’ve got some fun knitting to think about this week. Happy knitting!

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Pattern: Jaywalker, by Grumperina
Yarn: Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock, in ‘skyway’ (completed) and ‘vampire tea party’ (in progress)

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