Almost as good as hitting the mall

I’m pleased to report, knitter friends, that the knitted dress is finished! As per usual, once I actually sat down and worked on the seaming, it got done pretty quickly (as compared to just looking at the finished pieces and hoping they seamed up themselves). I even tried it on right when I finished and confirmed that it does indeed fit and I can sleep well at night knowing that I did manage to successfully execute my first knitted dress. Sure, it’s a lot of similar decisions to knitting a sweater (deciding fit, measurements, picking size, modifications, etc), but the first of any project is always a new frontier.

I’ll definitely get some proper modelled shots of this as well (maybe even get some nice bright tights or accessories to go with it – goodness knows the stores at the mall want us to do that sort of thing as though it’s almost spring or something), but for now my dress form can stand in. And now I have a knitted dress in my wardrobe.

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There are a couple of other projects on the needles that I should be attending to (including the Pi Shawl I started in the late fall and has a theoretical finishing deadline of Pi Day, which is in 10 days), but just to take the edge off of finishing a big grey project I decided to quickly cast on something in a colour, any colour.

I pulled some long-stashed skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label (I’ve had them for so long they are in her ‘original’ colour composition for the garnet colourway, which is different from her current one), and cast on a Duke Street Shawl for myself. It’ll be a pretty quick and cozy knit and might be just the ticket for a late winter/hopeful spring accessory. I might even make it a bit larger than the original pattern and extend the lace edging a bit, we’ll see how much the yardage wants to go for.

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It’s a whole new world after finishing a big project – it’s entirely likely a case of Start-itis is going to befall me, and I might not mind in the slightest if it does. New knits on the needles, huzzah!

Until next time!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

Pattern: Duke Street Shawl
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts Green Label, ‘garnet’ colourway

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You get there eventually

Just about every conversation I’ve had this week has included some version of, “February, am I right?” It’s the shortest month on the calendar but feels like the longest, especially if you happen to be experiencing one of the coldest Februaries on record for the past century like us poor slobs in Ontario. And we’ve got at least another month of cold (sweater season is not over by a long shot and I am having a wool renaissance of poring through my yarn stash), so even though we’re closer to spring than fall it’s a month that seems like forever. The west coast on the other hand are practically wearing bikinis because their winter has been so mild, and when I see photos of crocuses and green grass my brain actually does not know how to deal with this information. Wait…somewhere out there has green things?

Bridget and I were commiserating about this earlier this week when I went up to her shop for sweater photos, because it’s also the stage of winter when all of your unfinished projects seem like they won’t end. But then I realized that, wait a minute, not only is February almost over but so is that grey moss stitch thing I’ve had on the needles since Christmas. It didn’t feel real until I was actually just a couple of inches away from finishing the last piece, but you know, eventually grey moss stitch islands get done too.

Knitters, my Ossel dress has finally reached the blocking board.

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I will, of course, have quite a bit of finishing (mostly seams, long ones at that) still to do, but this is about 1750 yards of done-ness. I won’t lie that I am slightly nervous to confirm the fit once I put it on (I did all my measurements and so forth, but the proof is always in the final on-putting), but it’s pretty great to have the pieces done.

Getting photos of the finished thing will also be fun – guys, it might just be a rumour, but I heard the temperature’s going up to -2C next week. Break out the pina coladas and patio umbrellas!

I hope you’re getting some nice knitting time in this weekend – and a refreshing beverage (or two) of your choice. Happy Saturday!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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New Pattern: Catherine Pullover

Greetings, knitter friends! At long last I’m pleased to announce a new sweater pattern, the very same one I’ve been working on this cold cold winter. I was able to grab some photos earlier this week on a day trip up to Peterborough where Bridget was happy to oblige me with both modelling as well as a knit-friendly visit.

This is my Catherine pullover, and is available on Ravelry already and on Patternfish for any non-Ravelry knitters or anyone from EU countries.

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Cabled sweaters are my favourite thing to knit as well as design – which should be a surprise to absolutely no one who’s been reading this blog! My goal with this pullover was to make something a little bit elegant and structured while still keeping it practical to wear, perhaps a wear-to-work or wear-wherever kind of sweater. If you’re going to put in all the trouble to knit a cabled thing, it’s nice when it makes a strong visual statement.

I used Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted in ‘moussaillon’, and if you visit Julie’s Etsy shop she has handily made up kit quantities of the yarn to go with the pattern – they’ll be there until the end of March. What I liked about this yarn is the little bit of silk quantity, it gives the superwash wool an extra boost in smooth feel and sheen, and silk content always boosts the warmth a little bit as well! I’m sure I’ll be knitting with this yarn again in the future.

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Around the same time as I started this sweater I was also reading a biography of Catherine the Great, and the name stayed in my mind in association with the sweater, so ta-da! Catherine pullover. I think she would approve though, these cable panels have elegance covered. And as much as I love the swirly cables in the centre panel on this one, I think my favourite feature is actually the cuffs. I’ve been enjoying using longer cuffs in my sweaters lately, and the way the cables flow out of the cuffs makes me smile. I’m not going to lie when I say I would even consider knitting this a second time.

This is written in eight sizes measuring 33(35.75, 39, 42.5, 45, 47.75, 51, 54.5)ins around at the bust, and includes a schematic and fully charted cable patterns. It is worked from the bottom up in pieces and then seamed, and features set-in sleeves and waist shaping for modern fit.
The instructions have also been fully tech edited and I do my best to ensure clear formatting. Still, if you should encounter something that isn’t as clear or might be an error, do let me know and I’m happy to correct it.

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Happy knitting, friends! And I hope you have a good project to keep you company this week.

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Pattern: Catherine pullover, by me
Yarn: Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted, in ‘moussaillon’ grey/purple

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Practically the same thing as being done

Things are ticking along here at Knitting to Stay Sane. My purple-grey cabled sweater cabled sweater project is just awaiting some photographs and then its hopeful pattern release before the end of the month, and even though it doesn’t quite seem believeable…I am almost finished the Ossel dress.

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Yesterday I reached the armhole decreases for the front, and now that I compare it to the back and see how little knitting I actually have left before I start sewing it up, it’s pretty amazing. Knitted grey dress here we come! Winter isn’t going to be done with us any time soon as it turns out, so the whole idea of covering myself in wool from the knees up is alllll going to come together. My evil plan is working.

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The front, mercifully enough, has a cable panel running all down the front (as do the sleeves), which makes for interest but also more structure and stability. The back panel on the other hand (above), is all worked in moss stitch and has reminded me that all-moss-stitch knitting tends to bias and turn out all slanty and weird. It’ll all come out even once I block the snot out of it, of course, but I don’t actually know why moss stitch does that except to say that, well, moss stitch does that and it’s normal and don’t worry because that *%#!’ll block right now. It’s back-and-forth not in the round and each row includes both knit and purl, so there should be the same amount of tension in each row, and the wool is plied not single-spun. Does anybody know why moss stitch does this? My Google-Fu failed me on this one.

Anyway, I’m almost done dress which in my mind is practically the same thing as actually being done, so my goal is to get this done by the end of the month as well so as to not give myself time to falter right before the finish line. New projects await!

Happy knitting this Thursday, knitter friends!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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If it were any other sport

Are you a person who makes personal resolutions at the beginning of the year? I often am, this year included. (Being more frugal is up there, and to wit I have not purchased any yarn since Boxing Day, I’m holding up pretty well so far, thanks to ye olde stash.) If your resolutions involved any kind of new regimen which is now, 6 weeks into the year, starting to show signs of flagging, I humbly suggest knitting fitness as something to bring into your routine for a late winter boost.

A lot of us make it through winter with a pretty high productivity level. Knitting is a survival tactic both for the process and the results: we get warm things to wear outside in the cold, and we get a warm and colourful hobby to keep us busy inside when the outside world is the opposite of warm and colourful. If you’re the sort of knitter who also makes a lot of gifts during the winter season, your level of activity has probably given you some aches and strains at a few points, which is a good reminder to take knitting seriously as a physical activity.

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I am of course, not a medical professional, nor do I play one on television. If your knitting is actually causing you real pain, please consult a doctor. (I actually had to do this once after I developed tennis elbow from knitting too much. I adjusted my form a little bit and made sure to take breaks more frequently as a result, but my knitting was out for the count for a little while and I was less than thrilled.) I can, however, contribute some recommendations learned over ten years of pretty dedicated knitting.

1. Take breaks.
If you’re a person who can’t go more than fifteen minutes without checking your smartphone, you’ve got this one locked down, because you’re probably putting down your knitting to do that. But this can be harder to remind yourself to do if, say, you’ve got a weekend free of any scheduled responsibilities other than watching Netflix and knitting continuously while the next episode of whatever you’re watching gets queued up automatically. (Hypothetically speaking of course. I mean, maybe someone could end up rewatching the entire series of Gilmore Girls and X-Files back to back because they’re there, not that I would know of course ::coughcough:: )

The important thing is to give your hands a break on a frequent basis. I’ve seen recommendations to do this every 15 minutes on up to every 30-45 minutes. Put down your work, stand up, and let your circulation return to normal for a couple of minutes.

2. Stretch.
If we were talking about any other physical activity that gets repeated for at least an hour a day every day, there would be whole magazine articles (if not whole magazines full stop) devoted to helping you perform this activity with strength and endurance and without injury. But because it’s knitting we too often take it for granted as a passive leisure activity rather than than something that takes a continuous toll on our bodies.

So, when you’re taking those breaks, pause to stretch out your hands, arms, and shoulders. Knitting is almost a full-body experience, so while stretching and massaging your hands is important, don’t stop there. Craftsy has a good post on hand stretches, this blog post has some great focus on the forearm and wrist, and this excerpt from Pam Allen and Shannon Okey’s For Dummies book has a good set of stretches for both hand and shoulders. The wrist exercises on this Livestrong post are focussed on tennis elbow, but are equally good for knitting strain as well.

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3. Enhance your Exercise

I’m a right-handed knitter as well as being right-handed generally. As a result I find that the arm muscles on my right side are stronger than my left side, but the right shoulder is weaker. This was something I discovered pretty acutely last year while I was working with a trainer at the gym on a weekly basis. As a commuter I joined the ranks of gym-goers because it was the only way I could make regular physical exercise happen during the week, and I started doing the trainer sessions to help me with strength training to support my running. I also discovered that other imbalances in my strength really were due to knitting, and as a result my trainer gave me exercises to focus on building strength one side at a time to try to correct it. Dumbell workouts are my friend now.

There was also a time when I wasn’t running and yoga was my dominant form of physical activity, and it helped me build a moderate amount of shoulder and arm strength that in turn helped me keep up several hours of daily knitting. If you’re a regular yoga practitioner you probably agree with this. While yoga isn’t as dominant in my current exercise routine, I do a few minutes of it after running to keep it in the mix. As a knitter, I think if you were to do even a simple routine a few times a week that included a couple of sun salutations, downward dog, triangle (ohhh that is my favourite for the shoulders), cow face pose (or at least the arms, with modification if you can’t reach all the way), and some kind of twist pose, you would be doing pretty darned well.

In other words, whatever your regular exercise routine is, if you think of it in part as cross training for your knitting, you’ll be well situated to keep doing both.

And, if you do sustain a knitting-related injury that is bad enough to need you to take time off, you have my utmost sympathies and I hope you are using the time to enjoy all those other hobbies like reading or shovelling popcorn into your face, that continuous knitting tends to get in the way of.

Stay fit, knitter friends! Until next time at least ;)

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When you knit things, they get knitted

This week, just as I was starting to feel the glumness of having the same set of knitting projects keeping me company for the last 6 weeks, I turned a corner and now there might still be hope again. This might not look like much, but that right there is proof that I have reached the armhole decreases on the back of Ossel, which is pretty amazing to me right now. This means I am in actual striking distance of starting the front piece, which in addition to being the last piece is also a piece with cabling on it and therefore more interest-holding than plain moss stitch. It’s almost as though I planned it that way – oh wait I did. Thank goodness, too.

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Also next weekend, which is a long weekend both here in Ontario and in the U.S., one of my DC knitter pals is coming to visit and hang out. Normally I do this visit in the other direction and go there, but forces of budgeting are keeping me closer to home for the next little while. And since I would normally treat holiday weekends with the excuse of finishing a project to wear or starting a new project to knit, part of me is starting to wonder if I could actually get the entire front piece knitted in the next week.

I am pretty sure that would be theoretically possible but not practically so – but in any event it is giving me a bit more momentum to keep going and get ‘er done. New projects are exciting to contemplate.

Happy knitting this weekend, knitter friends!

 

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

 

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Wash day

Occasionally in the course of blogging about knitting-related things, I get asked how I wash the things I knit. After about ten years of producing knitted things that get worn, I’ve gotten a bit of practice washing them (and I do indeed like to wash the things I wear), and actually it turns out that this is not a terribly complicated thing to do. The internet is full of advice on things like this, but here’s what I do.

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First, I’ve stopped bothering to pre-sort my laundry into knitted things and non-knitted things. I realized that what would happen is that I would shove the non-knitted (i.e. “regular”) laundry into the washing machine first, and then by the time it came around to deal with the knitted stuff it was all too easy to get lazy and post-pone it another week. Which you can get away with, of course, if you’ve got enough socks and sweaters, but it does pile up. Instead I sort things at the time of doing the laundry, and knitted things get put into the sink with a dose of Soakwash or Eucalan. The nice thing about Soak and similar products is that they are intended to be used literally to soak your knitted things. You don’t need to wash and rinse, you really do just squeeze it into the sink (or tub, depending on how much you’re washing) and let it foam up, and dunk your sweaters and socks in and let them sit for a bit. Then you drain the sink and squeeze out the water.

Once I’ve squeezed out as much of the water as I possibly can, I let the items air dry on a drying rack in the laundry area. For sweaters I lay them as flat as I can. I really do need to up my game on this, and I’m embarrassed to admit that it was only just last year I learned that such sweater drying systems as this one exist in the world, and now I want one.
Waiting for the stuff to dry still takes a day or two, but again, at least I’ve got backup stuff to wear.

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I did used to save up all my socks and run them with my other delicates in the washing machine on the delicates cycle, but I found that they started to felt a little bit over time, and my attrition rate of handknit socks went up too quickly for my liking so I stopped doing that. Your mileage may vary, of course, but after a few mishaps with washing machines over time, I’ve stopped using them for my handknits if I can at all help it.

Related to this is, of course, the issue of ‘pilling’, and I wrote a post about that a couple of years ago that you might find useful if this is the first time you’ve happened upon this issue. Rest assured that you will most likely encounter pilling on your garments the more you wear them, and that even if you are very gentle and careful and methodical about your washing, the pilling will still happen – probably in the same places on the same kinds of garments. It’s not even necessarily a result of how good the yarn is, but just a fact of life when it comes to wearing things. Your commercial knits will pill too.

If I’m really in a bind and I need something to dry fast (like if I’m sending off a design sample for a deadline), I will lay it out on blocking mats in front of a fan overnight and that usually takes care of it. But if I can help it I like things to air dry.

Do you have favourite tools or tips for washing your knits? If you’ve ever had a mishap, no doubt you’ve ended up with quite a few best practices of your own through learned experience – it’s a badge of knitter honour.

Happy knitting this Monday!

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