Monthly Archives: January 2011

I am the knitting

You know, that was a nice weekend. It really was. I would do it all over again next weekend if I could. (Or maybe next month or so – gimme a chance to do laundry and expand the travel budget first, and catch up on sleep). It is always the case that I feel this way after a knitting weekend of any kind, and I am often left pondering the exact reasons why. Part of it is quite simply the getaway factor – a weekend away as a tourist in another city for any reason is cause enough for relaxation and rejuvenation. People need breaks. Knitters need knitting time.


Learning from knitters is pretty great. Everyone has a different style, everyone wants you to walk away as a better or more confident knitter than when you came in, everyone is as passionate about knitting as you could hope them to be. To me it always feels like I leave with a better sense of how my current knowledge fits in, in context to the wider realm of Knitting that is out there. This weekend I learned a new way of holding my yarns when knittng colour-work, a toe-up gusset and heel, and a scadload of tips that were either unfamiliar or gave a name to something that was familiar to me but previously un-named, and that is awesome.


I do love that this weekend’s event was held in New York City. I have enjoyed visiting it in the past and I enjoyed visiting it again. I’m sure there were conveniences and inconveniences of this location for Vogue Knitting, but I do love that all of these classes were being held just steps (STEPS) away from Broadway, the Museum of Modern Art, Central Park, the Guggenheim, and so many other places of creativity and expression and design that New York City is known for. Yesterday was my last day (though my room-mate Lisa continued on with 2 more classes yesterday and another overnight in the hotel, lucky duck), and it happened that I didn’t fly out until late afternoon, so I had an entire free morning, and so I took myself on up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. May I say, if you should ever find yourself with a free Sunday morning in New York City, you could do a hell of a lot worse than hanging out at the Met. I walked up through Central Park (wistfully observing the joggers), was just about the third person in the door after it opened, and was all but alone with the Tiffany glass in the American Wing before the steady flow of the day’s tourists began to come in. And my 2 days’ worth of knitting workshops were still rolling around in my head as I strolled past the exhibits and it was great. It got me thinking about that never-solved question about whether knitting sits within the realm of craft or art, with the bonus of learning a bit of Greek and Roman history through sculpture.


Later on in the afternoon when I was waiting in Newark Airport to board my plane, I messaged my friend Liz (to check in on her Buffy the Vampire Slayer viewing, since she’s just now hitting Season 6 and well, Things Happen in that season that a person sometimes needs to talk out, you know how that is), and reported that I did classes with Meg Swansen, Jared Flood, Anne Hanson, and Cookie A, and got to visit the MoMA and the Met again on top of it all, and she messaged back to say “Oh fun! Behold the healing powers of crowds of knitters! Plus art!” And you know, that really does sum it all up.


Because really, screw the either-or scenario. Knitting is both art and craft and we know it. I think this must be where the whole idea of ‘design’ fits in – combining form and function without sacrificing either one. A lampshade is a lampshade and it takes craftsmanship to make it function well, but in the form of a piece from the Tiffany glass studio, it is also art. It is most beautiful to look at when the lamp itself is lit up, being used for its functional purpose. In the best possible scenario, this is what knitters are doing. When you wear a sweater that you have made to fit you well, as a result of a series of creative decisions on the part of the designer combined with your decisions as the knitter executing it to fit your own body, you are making something that is going to keep you warm at the same time as being pleasing to look at, and that is a fantastic thing. There are really a very limited number of practical reasons why we need eleventy-million different ways of working an increase or constructing a sock. But we DO have eleventy-million different ways of doing these things, because we are constantly applying our skills in new and exciting ways that will not sacrifice our pleasure to do so.


We name things as artistic when we want to draw attention to them as things we want to look at and admire over and over again, because when we looked at them the first time, they made us respond in some way that was thoughtful or emotional or satisfying. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t cast on for a sweater or shawl without knowing that I want to look at it over and over again. I suppose this is what makes knitting seem both intimidating and encouraging at the same time.


All I want to do now, of course, is knit a sweater. It’s rough returning to the regular routine this week, but at the same time it makes it all the more of a relief to have knitting to return to at the end of the day. Can’t wait for the next knitting weekend on the horizon. Happy Monday, stay warm and keep the knitting close by!


Filed under knitting tourism

Knitting tourists have more fun

I’m spending this weekend at the Vogue Knit Live event in New York City, the first event of it’s kind from VK (but as we already know, not the last – they are planning more), and it’s been a lovely getaway so far. Fellow Toronto area knitter Lisa is my partner in crime, who emailed me up last August and said “hey, I’m pretty much thinking about going to this,” and I could see no logical reason not to join in. Knitting workshops AND a weekend in New York? Sign me up.

It’s a fun time in all the exact same ways that going to a weekend of knitting workshops is fun (learned a bunch of increase methods from Meg Swansen, check. Bought some sock yarn, check. Exchanged Ravelry usernames and met some new friends, check. Compared Eddie Izzard jokes with Fiona Ellis, check check), except that there is the bonus of being able to run off to the MoMA or walk through Central Park on your lunch break, because all of New York City is right there too.



Every time I attend a knitting event, I feel as though my general foundation of knitting knowledge is elevated, but more than that I always come away with a better appreciation for the depth and breadth of knowledge there exists within the world of knitting, and the capacity of knitters to explore it to the degree that fascinates them. Geek on, knitters, geek on.



There’s one more day of adventures for me today, so I’m going to get back out there and make the most of it. Catch you on the flip side, knitter friends!



Filed under knitting tourism

Knitters’ time

So. It’s cold around here. Cold enough that today it is only at the freezing mark and that means that it has “warmed up” a lot and that people are commenting on how nice the weather is. Yesterday was the new low mark for the season, cold enough that your handbag instantly stiffens when you go outside, cold enough to layer two hats together because one is not enough, cold enough that it is negative double digit temperatures no matter if you are reading it in Celsius or Fahrenheit.

Cold enough that your breath freezes to your hair while walking to the bus stop.


Cold enough that I am wondering what the hell I was doing back in the fall when I flipped through Elizabeth Zimmerman’s ‘Knitter’s Almanac’ and decided to cast on for the Pi Shawl when instead, I should really have been focussed on the knitted leggings. Cold enough that for a while I was starting to consider sitting in a bubble bath as a valid and semi-permanent lifestyle choice.

And the thing that makes Canada great, of course, is that no matter how cold it is where you are, there is always some other part of the country that has it worse. So you layer up all your knitted garments and go outside anyway because that’s what we do. And thank goodness for knitted garments.

I’m about to wrap up a set of designs that have been in the works for a few months and am looking ahead to starting new ones, but for the moment I just want to put all of that on pause and knit socks. Plain, comfortable, wool, colourful socks, all for me.


I sorted through the stash on the weekend and pulled out a skein of Socks That Rock (mediumweight, in a mill end and therefore unknown colourway) and cast on for a pair of 3×1 ribbed socks (my favourite), and am loving it. Warmth and colour, that’s what I want. I have been stopping occasionally to return to a neglected Work In Progress, a poor pair of Jaywalkers that I started last summer and then set down in September, never to return to them until now. It’s only the foot of the 2nd sock that needs finishing, so I can surely get those suckers done soon and add another new pair to my sock drawer to start the year.


They are also warm and colourful and therefore just what this knitter ordered. Sometimes socks are what you need.

Stay warm and knitterly!


Filed under socks


Every year I knit myself at least one pair of mittens or gloves. And every year, half of the pair I wear most often somehow manages to get lost. I suppose this is the normal way of things – I see so many single mittens or gloves along the side of city paths or sidewalks, sometimes draped over benches or fences, so I at least know it happens to everyone at some time – but damn. It’s hard losing an object that you’ve put hours of time into making yourself.

Last winter this happened to me with the pair of red wool gloves I knitted myself to match the Laurel beret I made out of Cascade 220. They were pretty simple, worked from instructions in a now-out-of-print Patons pattern booklet, and gave a suitably matchy vibe along with the hat. Then, I lost one. I can’t exactly remember how, but I do know that I was grateful to have one remaining intact pair of gloves left to fall back on.

I’ve heard that sometimes people solve problems like this by going to a store and buying a new pair of gloves. But of course, they wouldn’t be the same, and since I’m a 5’9″ woman with long fingers the gloves in the stores never fit me as nicely as I’d like. So since then, I’ve kept telling myself I’d re-knit the lost glove, and it’s taken almost another year but I finally did it.


Despite being only half a pair of gloves and therefore only half a project, I’m calling this my first Finished Object of 2011. Psychologically it feels like the same effort, to go back and re-do something that was already complete once upon a time.

In looking through my stash I also discovered a thrummed mitten kit I bought from Tanis Fiber Arts at the Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto a full year and a half ago, and buoyed by my glove momentum have finally taken it out of hiding to turn into actual mittens. I will be prepared for losses this year, oh yesiree. These will be warm and toasty so long as I can manage to keep my hands on (or in?) them.


Have you any finished knits already for 2011? What are you most looking forward to working on next?

Happy knitting this week!


Filed under finished object: accessories, mittens

So long, 2010

I’m a little late and a dollar short on my look back at 2010, and as I once again look ahead to a busy first few months of the new year (‘day job’ teaching, and of course a lot of knitting plans), I’m glad to have taken it a bit slow for these first few days of the new year. It has been restful to allow myself a bit of time to work on my current projects and think about new ones, without interruption.

I’ve also been wearing my last big project of 2010, and grabbed some photos of it yesterday thanks to Bridget, which means I can finally report on it here and call 2010 officially wrapped up.


This is my fair isle yoke cardigan, worked from instructions found in Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitting Around. It is based on her ‘percentage system’, instructing you to do the math for your own body and essentially design your own sweater to fit. As written, the pattern instructions are for a pullover, but I decided to plan it out as a cardigan using a steek down the centre to create the gap for the button band (as described in my previous post). I’m happy with how it turned out, though I do wish in retrospect that I had used just one more button, allowing for slightly closer distance between buttons.


It was an enjoyable knit, and one which really progressed fairly quickly once I dedicated myself to it (it was sadly put aside more than once, for a couple of weeks at a time), since the majority of it is plain stockinette stitch. And because I’m Like That, I decided to choose my own fair isle motifs for the yoke (and sleeve accents, for fun), which took a bit more brain time for decision-making but again moved pretty quickly once I sat down to do it. I’m happy with the final result and would be happy to knit another one – perhaps even take the foundational ideas into some designs.

My 2010 had some good knitting in it.


All in all in 2010, I completed 30 projects or so – a great number, but one which is actually smaller than my totals for any of the years past. I think this is because I devoted more of my time than ever before to projects of my own design, and with design comes time spent in progress and thought before anything can be completed. I’m happy with the projects I did this year – 5 sweaters, 11 pairs of socks, 6 pairs of mittens and gloves, and many other shawls, hats, and other accessories.



I completed many projects that I’m quite proud of, and I’m glad for the things I’ve learned through them. I tried my hand at shawl design for the first time (and then a second time), and have been lucky to have worked with different and beautiful yarns from several Canadian dyers. I travelled to Rhinebeck once again and met up with a lot of wonderful knitting friends, new and old. I expanded by knowledge by taking more knitting classes, and taught a few more knitting classes myself. I look forward to more of all of this in 2011.

I hope your 2011 has gotten off to a good start! Happy knitting, and happy weekend ahead.


Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fair isle, finished object: sweater, year in review

Cutting a Steek

This is about the point when I should really be showing off my finished fair isle yoke sweater, because it’s done and I’ve worn it and it’s lovely and comfortable. But of course, I still haven’t managed to get some finished object shots of it, so I’m a bit behind. I also need to do a proper 2010 projects-roundup, but I’ll get there soon.

In the mean time, I wanted to go back to the whole ‘steek’ thing, because I mentioned cutting the steek back in my last post before Christmas, and realized after a few of you commented about it, that I didn’t actually fully explain what a steek is and there may be some of you wondering what the heck it is, or who do know what it is but haven’t done one. Steeking, or cutting a steek, is, when all is said and done, the act of cutting up your knitting on purpose. You do this when you want to create a gap or opening in a piece of knitting that you have worked in the round, and the steek is the part of the knitting where you anticipate the cutting will happen. This is instead of what one might normally do in a styled garment, which is to work flat and turn the work at the point where these gaps normally appear – the cardigan front, the armholes, the neckline, etc. One inserts a few ‘extra’ stitches where the gap will appear, and carries on in the round.


It’s pretty common to do this in stranded colour-work garments, because it means you only have to ever work the Right Side of the work while knitting in two colours at a time, and that saves you the trouble of trying to purl in two colours on the Wrong Side of the work. (Having said that, there are people – my mother included – who choose to simply work the Wrong Side anyway and omit the steek, because they prefer two-colour purling to having to do the steeking thing. It’s whatever brand of crazy you prefer).

If you’re doing this in 100% non-superwash wool, you don’t even need to reinforce it if you don’t want to, because the wool stitches cling to their neighbours well enough that it will not unravel. Unless, you know, you’re planning to really manhandle it or throw it under traffic or something like that. But there are different ways of reinforcing steeks, and in this case I did a sewn reinforcement – running two lines of sewing down the edges of the steek stitches, which is the quickest and most versatile way to reinforce a steek. (You can see the lines of sewing in the picture, above).

Back in December before Christmas, I had the wherewithal to get my sister to take a video clip while I was cutting the cardigan steek on the sweater. Because let’s face it, this is a one-shot opportunity. There’s no do-over on cutting up your knitting. I was hurriedly trying to finish my sweater alongside gift-wrapping, baking, visiting, etc – which probably explains my slightly frenetic tone of voice in the vid, heh – and honestly, the cutting up took less than a minute. If you haven’t had the good fortune to cut up a sweater of your own and want to know how it goes, well. This is how it goes.

Seriously, this is one of the best things ever. You can try it at home any time you want. Knit up a swatch – or even better, just go and find an old swatch in wool yarn, and make a vertical cut in it, and carry the bits around in your handbag for a while and see how it holds up. It’s awesome.

As for the post-steeking work, a couple of people asked how I was going to finish the steek after it had been cut, and I took a couple of shots here as well. There are naturally different options for finishing a steek, depending on what you want to do with the sweater. Elinor, who has done a yet awesomer job than me of explaining all of this, has a nice photo tutorial on the subject of reinforcing and finishing. In this case, I knew I was going to work a ribbed buttonband along the cardigan fronts. So, I mostly just wanted everything to look tidy on the inside.


Nobody would fault you for simply trimming the sewn edge evenly and leaving it as-is, but I decided to go one step above that. I folded down the edges towards the inside of the work, and neatly stitched them flat.


And then, you have a finished sweater. It’s pretty great. The only problem is that it’s entirely possible that once you’ve cut one steek, you’ll have the bloodlust and will want to cut up something else. Which means that you’ll have to go off and knit another project that requires steeking. But then, I suppose that’s not a problem after all, is it?

Happy knitting!


Filed under elizabeth zimmerman, fearless knitting, steeks