Monthly Archives: March 2010

New Pattern: Nouveau gloves

It can be pretty agonizing sometimes, having new designs in the works and holding off talking about them until the final reveal, but then when I do get to reveal them it feels so, so satisfying. The pattern I have to show you this week is one of two that I’ve been working on for Spring 2010 for Tanis Fiber Arts. Tanis will have this pattern in hard copy debut at her booth at Toronto’s Knitter’s Frolic this coming May. These are the ‘Nouveau’ gloves (available here on Ravelry, and here on Patternfish):

Mar21-Nouveau2

I tell you, I was just going to do “a nice little glove pattern” for Tanis. Just something that would use a single skein of her DK weight. Famous last words, right? Well, it does only take a single skein of the Yellow Label DK, but it is certainly one or two steps up from simple. It took me a few months to really nail this down, partly because I had thought at first this was going to be a colour-work pattern. As it turned out, once my brain switched to twisted cables, all I needed was a sketch and a bit of Art Nouveau and Art Deco inspiration, and I was off and running.

Mar21-Nouveau12a

What can I say about these gloves? Well, I love them, that’s the first thing. The second thing I can say is that, while I was carrying around the first finished glove in my bag (as one does), I passed it around to everyone who was around to try it on, and it fit everyone. Several people tried it on and said “oooh…” I really like the way these fit. The skeleton of the twisted stitch pattern and twisted stitch ribbing is a “k1tbl, p2″ combination, which means that the reverse side of a lot of purl stitches are on the inside of the glove, and it feels very smooth. The effect of the twisted stitches means that it slips on nice and snugly, but also has a good amount of stretch. These are what the gloves look like off of my hand, by way of example:

Mar21-Nouveau-Unworn

The pattern is fully charted from cuff all the way through the hand, and is worked in the round. The most challenging part for most people is likely going to be the fingers (I try to walk you through this in the pattern instructions as much as possible though – I’m here for you), as glove fingers can be a bit fiddly at the best of times when you’re not also trying to continue a twisted stitch motif from the hands all the way through to the fingertips.

I hope this pattern will be a fun and exciting challenge. Because it is worked on DK weight and not fingering weight, you’ll find it goes a bit more quickly than a comparably challenging pair of socks, and you’ll get to practice your twisted stitches and cables on a relatively small canvas. (Um. I might have twisted stitches and cables coming up on a larger canvas some time in the future. Just saying. ::whistles::)

Mar21-Nouveau15a

The pattern instructions are worked at a gauge of 26 sts/4 inches over 3.25mm needles, decreasing one needle size at the cuff. I am confident that this provides a good fit for most women’s hands, from about 7.0-8.5 inches in circumference. For a more snug fit, decrease all needles by one size. For a larger/looser fit, increase by one size.

I’m glad these babies are out in the world now. If you knit them I hope you will enjoy the process and the result! And as always, please contact me (crazy.knitting.lady[at]gmail.com) if you have pattern-related questions that I can help with.

Happy Wednesday!

17 Comments

Filed under accessories, design

On sizing with needles

In the knitting world there are different ways of changing the size of the thing you are knitting. In general, we expect knitting patterns to include more than one size, or if not multiple sizes then at the very least some form of guidelines for modifying the size if necessary. Most of the time this happens by changing the number of stitches and possibly also the number of repeats of a particular stitch pattern involved in the garment.

However, occasionally you will encounter a knitting pattern which accomplishes a change in sizing by changing the needle size, and maintaining the same (or, mostly the same) pattern instructions otherwise. The effect is that the number of stitches stays the same, but the gauge – and thus the size of the finished object – changes. This approach is less common, and I know that some industry guidelines actively discourage it. In general, I would argue that it is not an ideal approach in all situations, but I am quite in favour of applying this technique in certain instances. My Viper Pilots sock pattern as well as my 14 Karat sock pattern (pictured below), both used this technique, and the glove pattern I’m about to release this week (sneak peek below) also uses this method. The socks I’m working on for Elinor’s Socks Revived contest will likely also employ the changing-size-by-by-changing-gauge technique. I thought I’d take a moment to explain why I use this approach in some scenarios.

14KaratBothPair2

First, let me say that I don’t think this is an ideal approach for all garments. Sweaters or knee socks or other garments that need to be fitted to a large portion of your body should absolutely come with a variety of size instructions and this is best accomplished by changing the number of stitches. Changing the gauge in both row and stitch may not accomplish the exact proportionalitiy you want.

However, if we’re talking about relatively small garments that are going on your hands and feet, there’s a better likelihood of still achieving good proportional fit by changing gauge. By changing needle size you can easily achieve a better fit in circumference, while still maintaining the freedom to adjust length as needed. For example, in both the Viper Pilots and 14 Karat socks, I still include instructions to work the charted pattern until X inches before you wish to start the toe – this still accommodates a variety of foot lengths. The same can be said for gloves.

Mar21-Nouveau18a

Using this approach also allows you to maintain integrity of the stitch pattern being used, without having to add or remove stitches. This is important for patterns which would become quite visually different with a change in stitch number, and when there is no obvious repeat of a motif.

Still, the main reason I like to use this approach – for socks in particular – is to conserve yardage. I have size 11 feet and I am extremely mindful of that fact when I select sock yarn for my own socks or for my designs. You will not find me using sock yarns with yardage less than 350-360 yards per 100g(ish) skein, and in fact i’m much more comfortable if that number is closer to 400 yards than anything else. My sock yarn stash reflects this.

Essentially, if you have big feet and are worried about having enough yarn left to do the socks you want at the length you want, the easiest way to add more worry to that equation is to increase the stitch count. More stitches use more yarn. I’m pretty comfortable up to about 72 or even 74 stitches in circumference on a sock, but upwards of that number I get pretty nervous. If you can achieve the same size difference of adding 6-8 stitches over 2.5mm needles than what you would get by simply increasing to 2.75mm needles, then I’m going to go for the needle change if it means the sock will fit me AND it will still look good and meet my yarnly needs. (The socks below are two separate sizes, worked using exactly the same pattern instructions – the difference is one needle size.)

14Karat-Pair1

Now, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, but Glenna, if we change the gauge how do we know we can still use the same yarn? Well, sometimes you don’t. You may well have to use a different yarn from what the original pattern sample uses. (I will often make suggestions when I do this). When it all comes down to it, I do not see this as a problem.

Many yarns are versatile and will accommodate a slight gauge change without too much trouble. This is, incidentally, why I tend to prefer the moderate fingering weight area – not too light, but still squishy. Yarns like Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight, Madelinetosh Tosh Sock, Dream in Color Smooshy, Sweet Sheep Tight Twist, Fleece Artist merino sock, these all come to mind in this category. Many yarns will allow a slight change in gauge and still look good at either gauge. If you change the gauge drastically enough that you need to jump an entire category – i.e. from fingering weight up to sport weight, or sport weight up to DK, then that’s possible, too.

Whether or not you are using the same yarn as the pattern sample, you still have to ask yourself the same questions about whether or not you are getting the gauge you want. And the modern knitting world we live in has So. Much. Yarn. We have a lot of options if we want to change the yarn – and if it’s worth it to you to knit the pattern the way you want, it’s worth taking the time and effort to find the right yarn.

This has been today’s knitterly ramblings from my brain. Catch you again next time, with yet another pattern release! I’m on fire, I tells ya. On fire.

21 Comments

Filed under design, fearless knitting, knitting knowledge

Products have a Process

For the last month or so I’ve been working under a veritable deluge of new knitting design projects. Some of them are under my own steam, some are commissions for particular destinations or dyers, and all of them are things I’m enjoying working on and spending brain time on. I come home at the end of the day and happily beaver away at my notes or swatches or samples and it’s awesome.

A couple of these have started to jump the queue into my commuter time knitting, which I am starting to fear means bad things for the speedy completion of my Portland pullover, and that sweater I’m meant to be knitting for Elspeth by mid-April ::whistlewhistle:: but I can’t say no. One of the worst feelings a designer can have is fear of having no more new ideas, so if I should happen to find myself sitting in a small well of ideas and new projects to get going on, well, sign me up for that. I’ll fit ‘em in somewhere.

I have also, ever since the middle of term, initiated a little ritual for myself of having a pub lunch on Fridays. I lecture every single day and it’s a long week to get through, so I decided to ritualize it with a burger and a beer, and it’s been good. I usually get there a little later after the true lunchtime rush, so I can have virtually any table I want and pull out the knitting and/or vapid paperbacks as easily as I please.

Mar26-PubKnitting

For a few weeks in particular the back of my brain has been working away trying to figure out one specific challenge, trying to come up with a sock to enter into Elinor’s awesome sock contest. (I should say at this point that Elinor has me completely and totally marked, telling me about the contest with an extra comment about “oh I WAS going to ask you to judge but then you wouldn’t have been able to ENTER it, lalalalalaaa ::eyelashbatting::” and at that point I had no choice but to jump in and see what happens.)

This is what my knitting brain has been mulling over for weeks, and this week I finally put it into a charted form, cast on, realized the yarn was too heavy for the number of stitches I wanted, ripped it out, cast on for it again (per my last post), and then I promptly went into a fit of indecision and ripped it all out after a few rows, cast on with another yarn, ripped that all out again, and was about to try again with yet another yarn when I just plain stopped. If I, with the sizeable sock yarn stash that I have, cannot find a yarn to work, then it is probably not the yarn that it is the problem. I have to go ahead and take that bullet for myself. So I had a drink and let it sit, as one does.

By yesterday evening I had it back on track with the second yarn (to the right, in the picture above, which incidentally is Madelinetosh tosh sock, in “composition book grey”, though it resembles more of a dusty purple. The cute pink stuff is from the Sweet Sheep and I’ll tell you about that one in due course.), and got it to do exactly what I wanted it to do. And then, after a few inches, I looked at it and realize that despite the fact that I had gotten the yarn to do what I wanted to do, what I in fact needed to make it do was something ever so slightly different…and ripped it all out again.

So here I am back with a cast-on sock and a scant 3 rounds, but it’s momentum and I’m content with it. Some projects just need more of a process, I am reminding myself. Some projects break their revelations to you at midnight just as you are falling asleep, and others while in a mostly-empty pub with a beer.

This knitting gig sure isn’t dull, I’ll say that much.
Have a great weekend!

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Filed under design

Portents

Have you ever stopped to count your cast-on stitches only to discover that you stopped at EXACTLY the right number you needed?

Mar24-CastonMadtosh

Let’s hope it’s a good omen for the project.

P.S. Thank you all so much for the lovely comments on the Neptune High socks. Seriously, it’s making my week.

P.P.S. Since a few of you asked – Those wedge faux-saddle-shoe heels in the main Neptune High socks photo are from Clarks. Got ‘em last fall and they’re great.

[Edited to add] P.P.P.S Yes indeedy those are Knit Picks fixed circular knitting needles – they have become my go-to needle for Magic Loop sock projects. Except for when I, you know, lose all the needles of exactly the size I need and then have to wait to buy more. Not that I’d ever do that sort of thing.

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Filed under Uncategorized

Argyle is the Watchword

I’m beyond thrilled to finally show you my latest pattern design, one which has been in the works for quite a while. Earlier versions of this sock appeared over two years ago, but in the New Year I made myself go back to it and after working away steadily on the new samples for weeks and weeks, finally I get to show it off at long last! I present the Neptune High socks. This mini-argyle sock pattern is now available through my Ravelry store as well as through Patternfish, and comes with instructions for both a knee-high version and a ‘regular’ length, shorter version. (Sale price in both locations is $6.00) Any hard-copy availability will be announced as soon as it is available, but for the moment this is an online download only.

Mar21-Neptune7

So, at the very least, this is an argyle sock pattern. I’d started this a while back and then, what with finishing my PhD dissertation, and teaching courses, and working on other designs, it got pushed to the wayside. And I sort of figured that in the mean time, someone else would have done a pattern very much like this and picked up the ball where I dropped it. But as far as I can tell no one has, so I marshalled my powers of stick-to-it-iveness and went back to it, and now you too can follow these instructions and take your colour-work skills and sock-knitting skills and make yourself a badass pair of argyle socks in whatever colour combination you want.

Mar21-NeptuneKH9

More than just an argyle sock pattern, though, this pattern takes inspiration from another early 21st Century cult television classic, Veronica Mars. Veronica was pretty kickass. I sort of feel like if I’d had even a fragment of her perseverance and awesomeness when I was in highschool – or, let’s face it, even now – I’d be doing pretty damned well. She stuck up for herself and did it with a sense of style, no less.

When this show aired a few years back, it was around the time when argyle was starting to come back in popular fashion, and it cropped up a few times in Veronica’s wardrobe. Or if not argyle print, then other hip-but-still-sort-of-preppy outfits that always blended bright colours like pink and green with the more neutral tones, and it really really worked.

It’s this very colour inspiration that brought me to the samples you see here – bright and modern colours applied to a highly traditional and classic design.

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With the Neptune High socks, you are essentially getting two-patterns-in-one. The instructions come in two variations – one is a knee-high version, complete with my tips on how to achieve best fit for knee-high fit and shaping (I include pattern instructions for shaping but everyone’s leg is likely to be a bit different, so it’s good to know when to try on and where to measure your leg and so forth). This version includes sizing for an upper calf circumference of between 13 and 17 inches, and foot/ankle circumference of between 8 and 10 ins in circumference. Shaping instructions are included for decreasing on either side of the back of the leg. For best fit, measure your own leg and foot and modify the pattern guidelines if you believe you would achieve a better fit by doing so.

The second version is a shorter version which is a more typical length for a regular sock, a little more practical for everyday wear, or perhaps a better option for knitters inclined to dive in a little more gradually. The shorter version also includes a small amount of shaping to accommodate a comfortable fit. Again, the pattern provides guidelines for foot/ankle sizing between 8 and 10 ins in circumference. (As an FYI, both samples shown here are size Medium, for a foot/ankle circumference of 9 ins and upper calf circumference of 15 ins).

Mar21-NeptuneKH1

The argyle stitch pattern is charted, and stitch gauge over this stranded colour-work pattern is 9 sts per inch. For me, I tend to achieve this gauge using about the same as, or possibly 1 size smaller, than what I would use to achieve 8 sts per inch in plain stockinette. For best results, please knit a gauge swatch first (in the round is preferable), check your gauge often as you knit, and adjust your needle size if necessary.

This is, needless to say, a moderately advanced pattern. You need some comfort level with colour-work, sock construction, and working from a chart. However, I will say that having knit this a few times myself, after a while the argyle pattern sort of burns itself into your brain and you just keep on knitting a little more easily with every repeat. This pattern will offer you a bit of challenge, but will absolutely be worth it in the end.

The overall sock construction is a straight-up cuff-down, flap-heel sock. The cuff, heel flap, and toe are all worked in a single colour (the Main Colour), which means you need a bit more yardage in the MC than for the Contrast Colour. (Yardage guidelines are included). As with my past sock patterns, I offer guidelines for both Double-Pointed Needles (DPNs) as well as Magic Loop. (I used Magic Loop to execute these – incidentally I tend to prefer ML for colour-work).

Buy on Patternfish.
Buy now on Ravelry.

Mar21-Neptune5

As for yarns, the samples here are worked in Van Der Rock Yarns merino sock (promethium/bismuth, in the shorter version), and Tanis Fiber Arts fingering weight (royal flush/stormy, in the knee-high version). A variety of moderate-to-light fingering weight yarns would be appropriate, essentially anything that gets you a colour-work gauge of 9 sts/inch. If you’re concerned about stability for the single-colour heel flap, choose something wtih a bit of nylon blended in for the Main Colour.

The first time I drafted a copy of this pattern I sent copies to Lisa, Chante, and Clare/Clarabelle for test-knitting and for their original feedback I am still extremely grateful. On the second go-around this time, I sent the pattern to Melanie, my local friend Diana (who also took the lovely photos you see here), as well as the fantabulous Steph of Van Der Rock Yarns (whose yarn appears in the green/pale pink sample here). Thank you so much, ladies, for all your test-knitting efforts.

For those of you who snag this pattern, I hope very much that you’ll enjoy knitting it. As always, if you have questions or discover any pattern errors, please feel free to contact me at crazy.knitting.lady[at]gmail[dot]com and I’ll do my absolute best to work through it with you.

Now go out there and knit yourself some badass socks – argyle or whatever you please.

44 Comments

Filed under design, knee socks, socks

Soon.

OMG I’VE BEEN DYING TO SHOW YOU FOR WEEKS.

Mar21-Neptune2

Soon. Soon.

15 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Fine Indeed

After my sweater-progress post last week a few of you inquired again about the pattern and the yarn. Well, I can tell you that the yarn comes from Lismore Sheep Farm in Nova Scotia, and is a wooly sheepy yarn that works well at aran weight. It is quite similar to other homegrown woolen yarns like Briggs & Little. It works wonderfully for cables.

A Fine Fleece, I love it

The pattern comes from a book that I never get tired of talking about. This is the “Portland” pullover from the book A Fine Fleece, by Lisa Lloyd and published by Potter Craft. I reviewed the book a couple of years ago when it was first released and it has become one of those books that I constantly take off of the shelf just to look at. Ostensibly it is a book of patterns for handspun yarn, but all of the patterns appear with samples made up of commercially-available yarn, so it works very well as a set of patterns for a variety of yarn weights and (mostly woolen) fibres.

Many of the projects in the book are sweaters – I think about 18 if I counted correctly – and many also involve cables and texture, and relatively traditional construction. Still, there is a sort of town-and-country feel about the whole book and it is one of the few knitting books I’ve every come across that I would knit the entire thing without much hesitation.

So, I have decided to do just that. About a month ago I made the decision to permanently integrate this book into my knitting schedule – I will keep a Fine Fleece project on the needles at all times until I knit the entire thing. I’m guessing this’ll take me a few years, and I’m cool with that. The ladies at the Purple Purl have undertaken a book challenge to choose a book for an entire year – which I have complete and utter admiration for. I think I could do this book in a year and I think I’d learn a lot in the process, but I want to allow the challenge to fit in with the rest of my knitting life.

Are there knitting books out there which you could see knitting the whole works? Something to challenge and inspire?

Happy knitting this Friday!

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The Knitter’s To-Do List

Oddly enough, it does make me feel a smidgeon more accomplished, to have gone from something like this:

March17-YarnToDoList1

…to this:

March17-YarnToDoList2

Yarn, you and me have got a lot of work to do. One at a time, there’s room for all of you on my needles.

It’s a hard job, but someone’s got to do it. Game on.

12 Comments

Filed under design, stash

Field Trip

On Sunday my friend Kim invited me for a road trip to a teeny tiny local spot called Jordan Station. It’s in the middle of Niagara wine country here in Ontario and if I’m being completely honest, I’d never even heard of it before a few months ago when Sherry mentioned it as a place to check out.

Lo and behold, despite the rainy weekend, it was a nice little visit – yarn shop and fibre shop, and even a stop at a local cheesemaker before heading back out. I’d like to go back some time in the summer and combine it with a bit of winery tourism. After all, what else do you need if you’ve got knitting needs and wine taken care of?

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The Fibre Guy was our first stop. It’s a lovely spot – the first floor of a house filled as far as possible with spinning fibre, spinning supplies, and hand-dyed yarn. I think when I’m back there next I am going to have to take a closer look at the silk/seacell laceweight, because dang that looked pretty darned awesome.

But I did happen to get drawn in to some brilliant magenta roving which turned out to be on sale (go me), and there was no shortage of tempting things to browse at.

Mar14-Fibre2

Also, their dog Rusty will greet you like he was wondering why you took so long to get there.

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Just down the street was another little shop, a yarn and quilting supply store appropriately named Stitch. After a few minutes of browsing I immediately began to wish I lived closer because I’ll be the Stitch n’ Bitch nights are pretty awesome. The sitting and teaching area in the back also includes a fireplace.

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Mar14-Stitch2

They carry a nice selection including Berroco, Malabrigo, Manos del Uruguay, Rowan, Americo, and many others. I wasn’t going to buy anything but then I saw the Ultra Alpaca, and that same brilliant magenta shade was amongst the selection, so I had to go for it. (One wonders at the stash colour urges and calendar progression…I wonder if it is spring fever that is pushing me towards the brilliant colours.)

Mar14-Stitch3

All in all, a fabulous excursion. Will have to be repeated!

Around these parts the sunshine has returned again in full force, and I’m starting to feel like spring might just be around the corner after all. Winter has been rather modest around these parts but all the same, the daylight hours are getting longer and the idea of spending time outside is that much more pleasant.

Happy knitting this fine Wednesday!

14 Comments

Filed under knitting tourism, yarn stores

The Knitter Right Now

Do you ever reach moments in your knitting when you realize your game has shifted along the way? When you have managed to cross a threshold and can look back and realize that you are a different knitter than you were before?

I have discovered, for example, that I have somehow managed to become the sort of knitter who knits cabled aran pullovers on the morning bus commute because “it just has to get done.” If I were another knitter, perhaps the Me-knitter of Some Time in My Past, I might be spending nights agonizing over these cables and devoting truckloads of mental space to them.

Mar13-PortlandProgress

But the Me-knitter of Right Now has about a zillion and one things to knit on, and was supposed to have finished this (beautiful, delicious) Portland pullover by now, because the me-knitter of Right Now is in a bargain to have another sweater done by mid-April for Elspeth (so she can knit me the same sweater and we can be twee and matchy like that when I go down to visit). And in theory this should still be fine given that the matchy-twee Elspeth sweater is far more simple and requires no cabling whatsoever, and that Elspeth will probably not care if I am frenetically knitting away on the last sleeve while I am in her presence and/or seconds before I depart her company.

But it does explain why the Me-knitter of Right Now has decided not to care that I messed up establishing the central cable panel on the first sleeve, and that instead of 2-3 inches of neat ribbing I have actually jumped right in and established the cable motif right from the cast-on edge.

Mar13-PortlandSleeve

It is still pretty. It is an attractive modified design feature. The Me-knitter of Right Now is moving on.

And trying to knit like the wind. We’ll see how it all goes.

27 Comments

Filed under a fine fleece, cables