Monthly Archives: September 2010

A special FO 5 months in the works

After many months of training, much insecurity, and lots of stubbornness, yesterday I ran my first Half Marathon, at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon event.

It was hard, but good, and I would/will do it again.


A Half Marathon is 13.1 miles or 21 km, as compared to the full Marathon which is 26.2 miles or 42 km. I don’t mind saying that I am sufficiently buoyed by my finish to try the Half again, but that the Marathon is indeed a level of commitment above the Half. Full Marathoners, I salute you. But thanks for letting us Half-ers join the party.


The final kilometre was, I also don’t mind saying, the best kilometre I have ever run in my life. I would like to do it again, please.


And thanks to my friends and sister who were waiting at the end. It was great to have someone there to celebrate with.

Over the last few days I’ve heard a lot of people using the word “crazy” to refer to this kind of stuff. And I don’t have disrespect for that, because you know, it is sort of crazy. There is no immediate practical reason for anybody to do anything like this – let alone the FULL Marathon which is something that tests the physical limits of what the human body is capable of. (although I do think the benefits of running and distance training are many, but they accrue and are apparent in the long term) But I don’t think it’s any less crazy than any other mindful pursuit or commitment. We are all of us doing our own version of crazy. And I’ll say this much – running and then crossing a finish line, after any distance, is one of the most rewarding things I think I have ever done, and I think as many people as possible should have the benefit of that experience.

Today, my legs are tired, but I am glad to have finished. And I have the shiny finisher’s medal to prove it! Let’s do it again some time.


Filed under real life miscellaney

One size does not fit all

Some time in the past, a blog reader from Ohio named Leslie (hi, Leslie!) commented with a question about socks. Luckily enough, I was able to grab a moment to answer it with a piece of advice, and I asked her if she minded me sharing it with the rest of you, since it turned out so well.

Her question was about fit – she’d done several pairs of hand-knitted socks, but was finding they all kept falling into her shoes and she was walking on a portion of the legs and heels instead of the soles of the feet. Since I am a large-footed tall person in a world that does not necessarily presume that the average person is a large-footed tall person, I had a pretty good idea what the fix was: The feet need to be longer. It’s a good bet that if your socks are being tugged down like that, that means there isn’t enough room in the foot of the sock for your actual foot, and the sock tries to compensate by struggling to cover your sole with the rest of itself.

This is pretty common for anybody with a Size 11 foot (or larger), who is faced with a rack of commercial socks, all of which say “Size 7-10.” I’ll give you three guesses what happens when a Size 11 footed person tries to wear socks labelled “Size 7-10″, and the first two don’t count.

This is also a problem I ran into early on during the first few pairs of socks I knitted. I think, in my mind, I kept comparing my hand knitted socks to the tight-fitting socks I was used to buying in stores, and I produced similarly-fitting socks. As a result, I’ve ended up gifting away several pairs of socks to family or friends with shorter feet than me. (They have not complained about this). Over the years that I have been knitting socks, I have become accustomed to adding a little bit more length in the foot than I did at first. It also means I keep a watchful eye on yardage before picking out a skein of yarn – with practice comes the knowledge of how comfortably far you can knit before playing chicken with yardage.


What Leslie did, though, was much more stubbornly awesome. She determined that she was not just going to gift away the too-short socks. This photo above is hers, of her hand-knitted socks, all of which have had the toes pulled out and re-knitted to be long enough to fit her feet. Now she has socks which are hand-knit AND which fit her.

It just goes to show, folks. You may not be in control of the size of your feet (or some other body parts, for that matter), but you are darned well in control of your knitting, and your socks can be however the hell long you need them to be.


Filed under socks

Lamplight shawl

It never rains but it pours, it seems (well, yesterday it was actually pouring. Cut to me, realizing my umbrella also didn’t make it with me in my move. Hah), with design work, and by some fluke of timing I get to tell you about the shawl pattern I finished over the summer, on the heels of my two pattern reveals last week. This is the Lamplight shawl, a pattern I worked on for Michelle at the Sweet Sheep. Her maternity leave carried on a bit longer than anticipated, so that’s why this is coming to you in September instead of in August as originally planned!


Michelle gave me one of her Super Soft skeins to work with for this project, and the yarn really is extremely well suited for shawls, as a soft and lofty 2-ply light fingering weight. It feels very nice in your hands to work with and blocks up beautifully. If you were to substitute yarn, I would recommend choosing something similar in the light fingering weight category. The advantage with these Super Skeins that Michelle does is that they have over 900 yds in a single skein, so you don’t have to stop to change yarn halfway through.


In designing this I wanted to combine two motifs, as that is a pattern that I like in triangular shawls, and to use stitch patterns that include purl rows on the wrong side, for ‘resting’ as it were. I like that this allows for a bit of comfort and slightly speed with the process. Additionally, I wanted it to be modifiable to be able to be produced in a smaller, scarf-sized version, and so the instructions include both the large size (pictured) and the smaller size. The smaller size takes about 375 yds, the large one about 800 yds.


This is currently available as a Sweet Sheep exclusive, and is available for download here.

Thanks very much to my friend Smitha who obliged me with some modelled shots of the shawl! I think she looks great. Too bad I had to take back the shawl when we were done. And thanks to Michelle at the Sweet Sheep for the design opportunity!


Filed under design, finished object: shawl

It’s just that starting is so easy

I don’t know what it is about lace and lace-weight yarn that can have such an all-consuming effect. Either you’re in the deep dark throes of trying to finish something and feeling like it’s never going to end, or you’re fresh-faced and starting out with something new and it’s all going to be GREAT, just wait and see.

When I cast off my Bridgewater shawl back in July I immediately started reading through all the lace patterns I’ve got. There have been several on deck – the Peacock Feathers shawl, for example. But over the last year or so I’ve been reading through the Elizabeth Zimmerman books gradually and waiting for the opportune moment to start a Pi Shawl.


It turns out that the opportune moment comes when you’re riding a start-itis high after finishing a few projects, and even though you’re more than halfway through your Rhinebeck sweater and it needs to be done in a month you’re still looking for something new and shiny, and the yarn you bought yourself as a birthday present back at the end of July that has been waiting ever so patiently and that you were swatching up to knit something else entirely suddenly says “I would like to be a Pi Shawl now, please,” and it’s September and starting to get cold and you want to immediately cast on anything and everything that will make you feel warmer around any part of your body.

And that’s how it starts.


Filed under lace, shawls

Cabling without a cable needle

This weekend was quite a knitterly time at the Kitchener Waterloo (or “K-W”) Knitter’s Fair, with much yarn and knitter interaction to be had. I know I didn’t see everything there was to see, but what I did see was darned nice. I was once again followed home by a few skeins of sock yarn from Van Der Rock yarns and Indigodragonfly, a skein of Viola laceweight, and inexplicably, some Twinkle soft chunky that was on sale at the Purple Purl booth so that I can knit myself up a super warm scarf and hat set in about three seconds when I feel like it.

And now that it’s September and decisively moving in the cooler direction (oh thank you dear sweet heavens, the humidity was starting to break me down), it’s easy to turn to the yarns. Add in the fact that I just finished a couple of projects and well, you’ve got yourself a nice vulnerable time for start-itis. I want to knit everything, excepting of course the sweater I’ve already started for Rhinebeck and put down a month ago to work on other things.

But today i’m here to talk about cables, and cabling without a cable needle. I’ve been wanting to do up a photo tutorial for this for lo these many months, and I finally used my talk at the K-W fair as the necessary excuse, including these photos as part of the talk. Because I think if you’re going to take steps to knit fearlessly, getting a good comfortable grasp of cables is one of those key steps. And for many knitters (thought not all, I recognize), it’s easier to get there speedily if you can get the hang of cabling without a cable needle. So, I’m going to share with you my method of doing it.

[ETA]: The yarn, if you’re wondering, is a skein of Tanis Fiber Arts Aran weight in the Garnet colourway, that I have kicking around extra and love using in a pinch for playing with.

I’ve got photos here demonstrating cables over 4 stitches, to the left and right – C4L or C4R is probably how you would see them noted in patterns. I use this exact same technique for cables over 2 stitches as well, which comes in super handy for all my little twisted-stitch cable patterns like Royale or Nouveau or even Viper Pilots.

(I will preface this by saying that there are a few other ways of cabling without a cable needle. A quick Google search will reveal some of them. This is the way that I’ve fallen into, and it works really well for me.)

Ready? Okay.

For a Cable twisting to the Left (where the first 2 sts of the 4 will twist over top of the second 2 sts, in a left-wards direction):

Step 1: Insert RH needle into the sts which will end up moving to the back:


So far so good.

Step 2: Slip all sts off of LH needle. The first half of sts in the cable (which would normally go onto the cable needle) are now “live,” and not on a needle at all.
At this point it helps to secure the sts by holding your right thumb and forefinger close. (You’ll probably do this on reflex anyhow). DO NOT PANIC. These sts will not be live for very long…


Because, on Step 3: You will, quick like a bunny, slip the LH needle to the front of work, through the live sts:


And then on Step 4: Transfer the sts now on the RH needle onto the LH needle…


…then knit all the sts as normal:


So, all you have done, in essence, is form the twist first, then worked the stitches (knit-wise), second. If this was a twist involving some purl sts as well, the twist would still be the same, you would just work the sts as knits or purls as necessary in that final step.

Here is the whole process for a Right-leaning Cable (Where the first 2 of the 4 sts twist to the back, and the second 2 sts twist forward, in a right-wards direction):

First, transfer your sts from the LH needle…

…to the RH needle. (On a Left-leaning cable, star with the sts on the Left needle. On a Right-leaning cable, start with the sts on the Right needle.)


Next, slip the LH needle in back of work to the first half of the sts in the cable – the sts which will lean to the back:


Step 3: Then, slip all stitches off the RH needle. The second half of the stitches in the cable (the ones which would normally go onto the cable needle) are now “live”:


But then, in Step 4, you very quickly slip the RH needle in front of work through the live sts on the LH needle:


Then, Step 5, transfer the sts from the RH needle back onto the LH needle…


…and then work all the stitches as normal (knitwise, in this case):



Some things to keep in mind, as you do this:

1. This works best on cables that are worked over 8 sts or less. If i have to do a really fat cable of 10 sts or more, I do use a cable needle then.

2. This also works best with yarn that is not going to slip and disappear on you. When you’re working with live stitches you want to minimize the chance that they will unravel on you, so super slick yarn like 100% silk, say, would be risky. (But if you’re knitting with 100%, um, I’d say you’re probably enjoying that anyway even if you’re having to use cable needles.)

3. There is a strong inclination (and helpfully so) to sort of pinch the work with your thumb and forefinger in that moment when you have the live stitches. Try not to do this in a death-grip fashion. The more stress you put on your hands as you knit, the more you are increasing the risk of knitting injury.

I hope that this has been helpful!
Happy Tuesday, and happy knitting.


Filed under tutorial

Take Two

I told you I had another thing to show you that I was getting done for this weekend’s Knitter’s Fair in Kitchener-Waterloo. Lo and behold, it is done, though I regret muchly that I wasn’t able to wrangle a clothed-person photo session with it. I can ensure you that I have in fact put on the final sample and I love it and am very glad Kim is letting me hang onto the sample, otherwise Things might Happen and one doesn’t like Things to Happen when there are precious skeins of yarn hanging around.


This is the Stage Door cardigan, for Indigodragonfly yarns, and will be available at the fair tomorrow in print copy, as also will be the yarn I made it in. It is delicious. Merino/Silk DK, in a colour named “I am filled with ennui (dramatic sigh)”. Kim took the name inspiration from a Glee line spoken by (I think) Kurt, ergo the pattern name had to take theatrics into account, n’est pas?

[ETA]: Now available on Patternfish, and in my Ravelry store.

I’m quite happy with the end result. It’s long, shaped (high waist), and very easy to throw on and then pull off again. I kept the foundation simple with stockinette because quite frankly, when there is 50% silk in the house, drape is what you want. Mmmmm, silk.


The detail around the neck and collar are also a win for me. Just enough interest and texture to keep you paying attention, but not overwhelmingly so. And it’s very comfy. At 20 sts/28 rows over 4 inches, it’s also pleasant as a fall-to-winter knit.


And with that, my weekend is drawing very close to starting. I’ll be back next time with more purchasing details on this and the Allons-Y shawl/scarf from my last post. I hope your weekend is knit-a-riffic, whatever corner you’re in!


Filed under design, finished object: sweater


[ETA]: This pattern is now available for sale on Patternfish, and in my Ravelry store.

I’ve been a busy little bee the last few weeks, as per usual getting one or two things ready for the knitting fair! For the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair this weekend, you will once again be able to find a new pattern of mine at Tanis Fiber Arts.  Tanis has been wanting a quick ‘single skein’ shawl pattern all for her own, and since she has two different lines of fingering weight yarn, I wanted to come up with something that a knitter could make with either one.


This is “Allons-Y” (french for ‘let’s go!’), and is shown here in Tanis’ Purple Label cashmere/merino/nylon blend in the rich and gorgeous ‘poppy‘ shade. It is very soft and has a pleasant weight around the neck. Can’t you just feel the cashmere radiating through the photos?


I wanted something that would combine a couple of stitch motifs for a nice scarf-like effect, in the nice versatile way that small shawls can be. You could wear this over the shoulders on a chilly day, or tuck it around your neck or under the collar for just a bit of extra insulation.

This uses 4.5mm needles and a single 100g skein of Tanis’ fingering weight, with just 7g leftover from my sample in the Purple Label (slightly shorter yardage than the Blue label merino/nylon fingering weight). A nice bargain! Experienced lace knitters will probably be able to knock this off pretty quickly, and adventurous new lace knitters who are looking for a second or third project to try will find it approachable enough. The shawl follows typical triangular shawl construction, and is worked from the centre neck down towards the edge, with a garter stitch edging and yarnover increases. Reverse side rows are worked purlwise, because if you’re going for speed, (not that I would ever be impatient to finish things, no no no…) you want to have that nice purl resting row waiting for you.


Thanks also to Bridget Allin of Needles in the Hay, who I accosted…errr, who obliged me with a quick photo shoot in her shop.

See you at the fair this weekend, folks – and with one more thing I’ll have to tell you about tomorrow. (Heh). ;)


Filed under design, lace