Monthly Archives: September 2011

You never can tell with knitting

You know, I often say that I love knitting because you can never really see the bottom of it. There’s always something more to learn or something new to knit or some challenge waiting around the corner. Sometimes that challenge involves designing your own Rhinebeck sweater as you knit it, with less than 4 weeks from start to finish.

Other times, that challenge involves figuring out exactly how big (or not) and floppy (or not) you should make the pompom that’s going to go on top of your chunky earflap hat.


That knitting, man. It’ll keep you guessing. (And I do love the pompom, even if it might be a little bit too floppy.)


Filed under accessories, colour-work

An emerging plan

Since I apparently don’t have enough to do, and since it’s now a whole 3.5 weeks away from Rhinebeck (HAH that snuck up quickly), I thought it’d be a good time to cast on for a Rhinebeck sweater. I like having something new to wear at Rhinebeck, and I just bought this lovely dark teal green Manos Maxima (a soft single-spun worsted, much like Malabrigo worsted) at the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair and wanted to cast on for something before it sat for too long and became a forgotten part of the stash.

It’s going to be a cardigan, and with a few soft and squishy cables to go with the soft and squishy yarn, but other than that, I don’t have the entire plan nailed down yet. I’m going “off the cuff,” as it were. (Yuk yuk yuk, I kill me.)


Not sure yet if it’ll have a regular collar or a shawl collar (ooo, shawl collar…), pockets or no pockets (ooo, pockets…) but I DO know what I want the sleeves to do, so I’ll start there. If it all works out nicely, I’ll write it up. And goodness knows it’s finally starting to be sweater weather out there! Which is very exciting. The nice bonus with this is that at 4.5 sts/inch it’s going to work up relatively quickly, so I’ll have a cozy finished knit before too long.

Happy knitting today! May your Wednesday be over quickly and have your preferred refreshment waiting for you at the end of it.


Filed under sweaters

Why Swatching Doesn’t Have to Suck

I’ve been having a flurry of swatching over the last couple of weeks, preparing for upcoming and future projects. It’s the sort of process that makes you really stop and remind yourself that actually, you really do love knitting, and even if you don’t think that all those little squares of wool are going to mean something right now, they will eventually. Probably. Hopefully. They’re like little wooly leaps of faith. Or maybe they’re like little square and floppy roulette wheels, where you take a spin and see if your gauge lands on 22 sts/4 ins or 24 sts/4 ins…aaaaaand, go! It’s possible I’m romanticizing this a little bit, but brace yourselves because I’m going in for a little more narrative action there.

The thing is, I don’t love swatching. Not really. I’ve done a lot of knitting and a fair few swatches in my time, and I still don’t love them. But I accept them and their purpose in my life, and wouldn’t want to have to do without them. I never used to swatch in the beginning (I was one of those insufferable knitters who “got gauge” and usually things turned out OK), but the more I venture into this knitting world, the more I have been willing to knit these little squares, especially before I dive into a new design project. If I care about getting a garment that fits me the way I intend it to, with the yarn I want to use, then…a-swatching I must go.

There are different proponents of swatching, and there’s no single way to do a swatch. In case you’ve never encountered this process before, I can tell you what I do, which is to cast on about 5-6 ins worth of stitches (usually between 35-40 sts, depending on gauge), work garter stitch for a few rows, then switch to stockinette for all be the 3-4 sts on each edge. I work until the little square has about 4 ins of stockinette in it, then I finish it off with a few rows of garter stitch before binding off. Then I wash and dry the swatch in the manner I intend to wash and dry the garment. After it’s dry, then I take a gauge measurement for the number of stitches and rows per inch, and along the way make certain decisions about what I like or don’t like about the way the yarn behaves.


Still, I know swatching – or knitting “tension squares” as it is also called – is one of those aggravations of our chosen craft. They delay starting the actual garment you want to knit, sometimes they use up yarn that can’t be reclaimed again for another project, and sometimes they just flat out lie. (There’s a reason why many of the top knitters out there will tell you that the only true gauge swatch is an entire garment.)

Yeah, sometimes those swatches just get no love for their service.

If you’re one of those knitters who doesn’t swatch and does just fine in the process, I commend you and say go ahead with your mad non-swatching knitting skills. If you’ve found a way to make the knitting process work for you in a way that avoids swatching, well, I raise my glass to you good madams and sirs. For me, knowing that swatches are not going to stop being part of my knitting life any time soon, I have started to think of swatches in more of a heroic role. Why must swatches always play the villain? They are indeed little noble steeds.

For example I think that, it’s not so much that swatches are delaying you from knitting your real project – they’re not evil interceptors from the other side of the line, getting in your way. No no, they are your own personal cavalry. They are taking the hit of time and yarn for you, to make sure you’re getting the fabric and gauge that you want in your garment. What if you were to start knitting your whole sweater, and get all the way through the back and halfway up the front only to finally admit that the alpaca blend yarn you’ve been working with feels sort of scratchy and is making you sneeze, even though alpaca never did that to you before, and you’re going to have to pull out the whole thing and give the yarn to someone else (which is now your only hope because you’ve used it already and can’t return the balls to the yarn shop any more), but not before you angrily mis-treat it a little bit during the ripping out part?

See, your little swatch was trying to save you from that. It wanted you to find that out while you were swatching, so you could change yarn sooner. Or maybe your swatch isn’t alerting you to the way the yarn feels – maybe it is trying desperately to tell you that, no matter how much you try, you’re not going to get pattern gauge on this yarn and that maybe you’ll have to adjust your pattern notes as a result, or the yarn, or both.

Or, maybe your swatch’s purpose is actually to speak sweet things to you, confirming your yarn selection and telling you how wonderfully smart you were to pick it, how pretty the colour looks while you knit it up, and oh by the way how fetching you are going to look in that sweater when it’s done.

If swatches could talk, man. I bet they’d tell us all to chill out.


Filed under swatching

Knitting on

I really want to thank all of you for your comments on my previous post; I know the enticement of a giveaway is strong, and I love it when so many folks come out of the woodwork to say hello! If you haven’t done so already, I really recommend going back and reading through the comments, to see what people find exciting about their knitting. I am inclined to agree with a lot of it – there is so much to learn and continue to be challenged by, and there is a lot of pleasure in seeing your completed works unfold in front of you when, just a short time earlier all you had was a few balls of yarn.

And sometimes you watch a half a season’s worth of Castle episodes and look down at your knitting to find that you suddenly have almost your whole first sleeve of your sweater done. (Not that I’d know about that or anything. But if I DID, I’d certainly be happy to report that the Gwendolyn cardigan is proving to be quite an enjoyable knit.)


I am working on this in Cascade 220, in a lovely teal blue heather that I found on sale earlier this summer. I like getting the sleeves of a sweater finished first if I can help it, because that makes the body feel much more satisfying to know that it’s almost the end. It’s great to be working from yarn before it has the chance to become hidden too deeply in the stash, and I look forward to wearing the final product this fall.

But to close up the full content of the last blog post, I’m happy to report the winner of the blog giveaway! The random number generator came up with 75, which by my reckoning corresponds to commenter “stargirl” on September 11th. I’ve sent her an email and will be sure to get the kit off in the mail soon.

Blog drawing

Thank you all so, so much for your comments, and I’m sure I’ll do another giveaway again sometime soon! Have a great Tuesday knit tonight, wherever you may be.


Filed under Uncategorized

Because a little more yarn never hurt anyone

Around these parts, the beginning of September means not just the return of fall but the return of the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter’s Fair! A whole bunch of fantastic vendors from Ontario and beyond are out in full force to support the knitting needs of the thousand or two knitters who drop by for the day, and it was once again a pretty great time yesterday.

I went with my mother and sister and we each did pretty nicely. My haul was a bit more modest than in past years, but I did come away with enough Manos worsted to knit a sweater, which I’ll hopefully pull out before too long and put into action for my Rhinebeck sweater knitting. It’s too delicious to let sit in the stash!



I think I ran into almost every knitter I know. (Almost). But since I know there were a few knitters from far and wide not there, I’ve got a super snazzy treat for you in the form of a blog giveaway! It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and thanks to the super generous folks at Van Der Rock Yarns, one of you could be the proud owner of a kit (pattern and yarn) for this fun and retro Winged Nike Capelet.

The kit I’ve got to give away is in the pale pink Bismuth colourway, although Stephanie was wearing hers yesterday in the bright green Gypsum shade and it was pretty great. It’s really quite an inventive knit. It uses a double strand of laceweight and has an interesting feathered look to it, thanks to Stephanie’s ingenuity in trying to recreate in knitting a similar stitch she’d seen done in crochet. I appreciate that kind of knitterly geekery, man, I really do. It has a sort of comfortable retro look to it.



To enter to win, just leave a comment on this post, telling me what excites you the most about knitting! I’ll draw a winner by noon (my time) on Tuesday this week.

And happy knitting as always! Have a great Sunday.


Filed under Uncategorized

Breakneck pace

After going around and around with delicious and light wooly wool for just over 2 weeks, I have arrived at something new. Which is pretty awesome, because even addictive colour-work gets tiring after 16 inches or so.

This week I got to install the armhole steeks on my “Longbottom” cardigan, and here at Knitting to Stay Sane we’re* all very excited, let me tell you.

*By ‘we’ I mostly mean me, and my yarn.


On the one hand, an onlooker might be looking at this and thinking, “you mean you’ve been knitting for two and half weeks on this sweater, and you’re only NOW getting to divide for the armholes?” And to them I might point out that “actually, this is a stranded colour-work that is going to be modelled by a very tall (and obliging, possibly because he is married to a fellow knitter) young man with a 42-inch chest, and that I’ve been knitting along steadily and getting in about an inch of knitted fabric accomplished per day, and that yes I feel pretty darned good about my progress, thanks ever so much. Also, try knitting colour-work sometime. It’s awesome.”

I’ve had a lot of miscellaneous project prep going on in the last couple weeks, converging against me in a way that has kept me from doing bloggable things at the rate that I normally like, and it feels a bit odd to show up and say “hey, I have slightly more sweater than I did last week, isn’t this cool?”

But actually, I really like this. No matter what else I have to get done, I get in my inch of sweater and that’s that. I like the incrementalism of it, that after a week has gone by I can see that I in fact have much, much, more sweater than I did at the beginning of the week. (My rule, if I can help it, is that the first thing I knit in the day is whatever I want it to be at that moment. Lately, it’s this cardigan. Probably accompanied by an episode of Castle, my newfound DVD addiction.)

Lots of things are cooking around here for the fall; new designs, project ideas, classes, plans for more blog tutorials (happy to have suggestions there), possibly a article titled
“Why Steeks Are Really Super Awesome and Nobody Should Be Afraid of Them Ever,” and it’s coming on sweater weather and I love it. Today I got to wear socks for the first time in months. SOCKS. ON MY FEET. I can hardly stand it.

Happy knitting until next time! And happy Friday ahead.


Filed under Uncategorized

The sock drawer is happy either way

When I was in California post-Sock-Summit, I met up one afternoon to hang out with Erin in Berkeley, I was knitting along on my socks (these ones, now finished) over fries and beer (they have good beer and fries there). At one point Erin stopped and said, “I couldn’t help wondering about your socks.” And I said, “Yeah? They’re Socks That Rock Mediumweight. Super fast.” And she said, “But it seems like they’re just ribbing. Are you really just making ribbed socks?” And I said that yes, yes I was.


Now don’t get me wrong – I love me some complicated-ness. The last thing I want is to be bored to tears by my knitting, and believe me I wear my own Viper Pilots socks just as proudly as the next knitter. But it can’t always be complicated knitting all the time, and I can still always use another pair of socks for the sock drawer, so my go-to simple project is a basic ribbed sock. I still knit stockinette occasionally, but usually not find it quite interesting enough, so I reserve it for gift knitting primarily.

And sometimes, when a big chunk of my day looks like this:


It’s okay if my sock knitting looks like this:


(Those are the current grandfather-gift-socks, on 2.5mm needles in some Knit Picks “Stroll” in a vintage “Firecracker Heather” colourway.)

If you’re looking for simple sock patterns to get started or just to get on with, my Nice Ribbed Sock pattern is always available for free, either in the Free Patterns page on my blog or in my Ravelry store, and for a worsted-weight option that includes a step-by-step slide show, check out my Weekend Socks over at Canadian Living online. My own Weekend Socks are my favourite slipper substitutes in the cool months!

What sort of project is your go-to knitting for simplicity?
Happy knitting this Thursday!


Filed under socks