Monthly Archives: November 2011

Chilly Podsters

[Note from the future: The most current pattern file version is as of February 28/2012. Please feel free to re-download as needed! Enjoy!]

Knitters, I promised you a free pattern this month, and since I am alarmed to discover that it is very soon going to be next month and not this month (ahahahahhaha let’s not even talk about how much I haven’t started planning for Christmas), I had better get cracking and do a proper introduction between you and these Chilly Podsters!

In the process of giving my regular Podster mitts a refresher earlier this fall, I said to myself, “self, these need to be warmer. These need a sister in worsted weight.” And my self agreed, and wouldn’t you know it, less than a week later I had a pair of these. I give you the Chilly Podsters, available for free in my Ravelry store, or here as a PDF download.

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This pattern is everything the original Podsters are – convertible, flip-top mitten/gloves, with a modified thumb that allows you to sneak your own thumb in and out, for access to your iPod or cell phone or camera buttons, or anything else you might want easier access to without having to rip the whole mitten off your hand to do it – but in worsted weight instead of fingering weight. True story. They also come in 2 sizes.

I used some of my remaining Ultra Alpaca to make mine, so that I’d have a matching pair of mitts to go with my Gateway Scarf, but these are essentially knittable in almost any worsted or DK yarn you’ve got stashed. They are knitted at a relatively snug 6 sts/inch, which means they will be nice and warm. The small size will use 1 skein of Ultra Alpaca or similar 100g worsteds like Cascade 220 or Plymouth Galway, and the larger skein uses just slightly more than 1 skein (I could tell you it’s a 1 skein project for both sizes, but your mileage may vary and it’s just too close to call. If you buy 2 skeins and don’t use most of the 2nd one…well, didn’t you need to make yourself a matching hat, anyway?)

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Enjoy, my knitter friends! I daresay these would make a practical knit for you and a few Christmas gift recipients. A word to the wise, though – take a pause between pairs. The only downside of knitting at a snug gauge is that it does add some strain to your hands, so be kind to them.

And happy knitting this fine (or rainy, if you’re where I am) Tuesday.

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Filed under accessories, design, free pattern

From the field

Last Saturday I grabbed some knitting friends for some knitting photography over in Toronto. It was tres fun. I put a couple of upcoming designs on Emily (you’ll see ‘em in the new year, I’m already impatient) who willingly modelled, and Jane snapped the pictures. Then Emily grabbed a few of her own sweaters that she’d finished for a while and needed project photos of, and just then a Segway tour rolled up in the background. It was fantastic.

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So now, the best part of all of this is that now Emily has these great Finished Object photos on her Ravelry project page with this attentive tour group in the background. You just can’t make this up.

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And then we bought some chocolate. The end.

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Happy knitting today!

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Filed under photography, real life miscellaney

Edgewater Cardigan

I can’t tell you how happy I am that it is finally cold enough to not only wear hand-knits, but to enjoy wearing hand-knits. I admit I am not at all the sort of person who rejoices over +17C temperatures in November. I’m a knitter, darn it, and I like being able to snuggle down into the yarny results of my labours. With that said, I’m pleased to have been wearing this sweater the last week – the sweater which I am happy to show off to you today as a new design. It’s what I wore on the Saturday at Rhinebeck this year and it’s a cozy cardigan for sure. Edgewater is available on Patternfish and my Ravelry store, and debuts at a slight sale price for the month of November.

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This is a sweater that I designed as I went along, starting with some deliciously soft wool (Manos Maxima – very similar to Malabrigo Worsted), and a wide looping cable running up along the sleeves. By the time I got to the body I had the rest of it figured out – the cables repeat up the back, and are joined by some tinier cable twists up alongside the edge of the button-band. I also threw on some pockets, which I think may well be my favourite detail of the whole thing. I like having that little extra spot to hide things I’m carrying with me – or even just to slide in my iPod while sitting at the cafe.

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The sweater is worked from the bottom-up, and the sleeves and body are joined in one piece for raglan shaping at the yoke. There is shaping at the waist, and a slight shawl collar for just a touch more comfort – however, in the instructions I note that a plain button-band could easily be worked and the shawl collar omitted. Because this is worked on a field of ‘reverse stockinette’ – i.e. the purl side of the stockinette shows on the Right Side of the work – all of the decreases on the body are worked on the Wrong Side, or the knit side. I’d much rather ask you to do k2tog and ssk than p2tog and ssp. Those ssp decreases can be fiddly, and I have no shame in admitting I like to avoid them if I can.

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I am extremely grateful to Melissa Jaarsma, who took the beautiful modelled shots you see here, while we were at Rhinebeck. It was a gorgeous sunny fall day, and she went snap-snap-snap and before you knew it we had these lovely pictures you see here. I think this might be the most I’ve ever liked myself in photos. I also owe a note of thanks to Jaya Purswani for the technical editing on this pattern. Thank you, ladies, for your helpful work!

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I’ll offer one last note on the yarn selection for this pattern, for any eager would-be knitters! Manos Maxima (and Malabrigo Worsted, the nearest substitute for this) are wonderfully soft and a joy to work with. They are single-spun ultra-fine merino that is pretty much like knitting with kittens. However, when a yarn gives so much in comfort and softness, it tends to neglect sturdiness and hard wearing. So, feel free to choose accordingly and go with a plied yarn or hardier wool, if that would serve you better! This is worked at a pattern gauge of 18 sts/4 ins, so a variety of worsted or Aran yarns would be suitable.

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And if you are a sweater knitter or no, I wish you a happy Monday (that’s also known as Happy Castle Day, if you’re me), with possibly a refreshing beverage also. I’ll catch up with you again later in the week, with more knitting to be done.
Happy knitting!

23 Comments

Filed under cables, design, finished object: sweater, sweaters

Letters

Dear Chapters-Indigo John and Richmond location

It’s really sort of cute that this is all the number of chairs you thought we would need for a book signing for something written about knitting. But since the fact that more than twice this many people actually showed up seemed to be genuinely stressing out you and your carefully arranged velvet ropes, and since Stephanie was fun to listen to as per normal, I will tolerate your dumbness.

Maybe bring out a few more seats next time.

Love and kisses,
Me.

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Dear Big Freaking Metal Deer Stationed All Throughout The Eaton Centre Shopping Mall

Hi.

Thanks for scaring me into realizing that there are only 5 more weeks until Christmas. I fold. I’ll just buy gifts this year.

Shiny tentative metal hugs,
Me.

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Dear knitters

I have a new sweater pattern to properly show off to you, and I’ll totally do that on Monday.
Have an awesome weekend!

Glenna

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Postcards from the Stash

My name is Glenna, and I have a yarn stash. It’s of a reasonable size – the sort of size one might expect from a knitter who has been actively stashing yarn probably since she made her very first novelty scarf at the beginning of the ‘aughts, and bought an extra skein of purple feathered acrylic/poly blend “just in case,” and who is never without multiple Works in Progress or ideas for what to knit “next.” In the intervening years since I started knitting, I’ve had the fortune and pleasure of stashing yarns a bit nicer than purple novelty eyelash yarn (remember when those scarves were the thing?), and every so often I do a bit of a sort and cull and pass on some of it to other knitters who I know are more likely to use those bits than I am in the next year.

But mostly, I like having a stash. I was chatting with a guy in Peterborough last year who was a new knitter at the time (hi Kevin!) who was genuinely curious about the whole stash thing, and I said that for my own purposes I considered it in the same category as having a library of books in your house. I like reading, read often, but I don’t always know what I’m going to want to read at a given time, so I collect books based on my interest so I’ll have them around to read and consult when the mood strikes. I have books on my shelves that aren’t being actively read, and one day they may get transferred to the sort-and-cull pile and passed on, but for all I know I could be reading them tomorrow. This is by and large how I think about my yarn. Some yarns I buy knowing I’m going to use them right away, in the same way that I know I’ll immediately read the latest mystery paperback in a favourite series. Others are there waiting, just like that copy of Wuthering Heights that I know I want to read at some point except that the classic lit part of my brain is currently being taken up by Anna Karenina, and so I just have to maybe wait on that. I’ll totally read Wuthering Heights/start that green Cascade 220 pullover next month. TOTALLY.

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So, yes, I have a yarn stash. It’s the collection I choose to cultivate and outside of clothes, books, and dvds, probably the only thing I regularly spend money on. I like it. I thought I’d show you a glimpse of it, and share with you some of my stashing idiosyncrasies that are part of my knitterly process. I will point out that the majority of my stash is wool or wool-blends. I live in a 4-season part of the world with cold winters, and wool makes practical sense. It’s also a very comfortable fibre to work with, I like the way it feels on my hands to use, and it behaves well under hand-washing and blocking. Occasionally I’ll go for something in the plant-fibre area, for the summer, but it’s just not my preference – it may well be yours, though, and that’s all cool.

The knits that occupy a lot of my imagination are socks, and sweaters. Unsurprisingly, then, I tend to stash quantities of yarn in amounts appropriate for these items. With socks, that’s pretty easy – most “sock yarn” or yarn intended for socks comes in a sock-sized quantity, where 1-2 skeins is all you need to get going. Sweater quantities are a bit more personal, and actually if we’re getting down to it I recommend taking a few minutes out of your day one day, and familiarizing yourself with an approximate yardage number for your own sweater size and preference – of DK, worsted, and bulky. (If you happen upon a yarn sale tomorrow, you might not have time to look up whether you need 7 skeins of Malabrigo Bulky or 8. Just sayin’.)

I like worsted weight yarn for sweaters, and Cascade 220 heathers and Berroco Ultra Alpaca (pictured above) are two of my favourites. The Cascade 220 heathers have a nice textured look that appeals to me over the solids, and come in sooooo many colours. It’s hard for me to resist a Cascade 220 display, especially when it’s on sale (there are some Romni Wools summer sales I could mention), and I like that it’s versatile enough for cables, stockinette, or even colour-work. I’ve worked with it enough that I can estimate my gauge with it pretty easily. I like Ultra Alpaca for many of the same reasons, but also because its 50% wool/50% alpaca blend makes it SO warm, and so drapey. I’ve knitted sweaters, hats, gloves, mitts, and scarves with this stuff. It’s awesome. The alpaca factor does make it behave a bit differently than 100% wool, though, which means I always need to pay a bit more attention to swatches and sag than otherwise.

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Sock yarn is extremely comfortable in my stash. Its real estate has achieved a relatively firm status, and this is partly because I mentally place sock yarn in different categories of sock knitting. First, there is the Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock. I have no shame in admitting this is 99% because I like this yarn for knitting Jaywalkers. It’s just…something I started doing. Shamefully, I have only had 1 new LL jaywalkers pair in 2011, and one could possibly surmise that maybe that means I have more LL sock than I need. (None of those people are HERE, though, right?) But it’s sort of like the library. The next time I start a new pair of Jaywalkers, I don’t know what colour I’m going to want to knit with, so I like having the options. Maybe I’ll want them to be flaming pink, maybe I’ll want them to be sedately dark green. Who knows. That’s the joy of it.

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The rest of my sock yarn stash falls into more or less one of two categories – “things to knit 3×1 ribbed socks with,” and “things that I could knit anything I want with.” The first category tends to get the variegated or multi-coloured ones, and for that I love Socks That Rock, but also sometimes tonals like Tanis Fiber Arts sock. Usually if I’m keeping the sock plain and repetitive, I’ll make room for colour. The second cateogry, though, tends to lean towards solids and semi-solids, which are my preference. Madelinetosh tosh sock has become one of my stash pals there – I look for it in yarn shops when I’m out and about since not everyone has it, and try to always have a few skeins of different shades. If I’m trying out a new sock design with cables or a complex stitch pattern, it’s an enjoyable place for me to start. Indigodragonfly Merino Sock is in a pretty similar spot ofr me there, and I’m always open for more finds that fit here.

After that, a bunch of my stash falls into the realm of “I know I can make a project of some kind with this, I just don’t know what, yet, but I’m pretty sure I love this yarn enough not to worry about when that’ll happen.” Like, I know I’m not likely (though someone else might be) to cast on a laceweight shawl every single month, but I know that I like knitting them sometimes, so when that eventuality occurs it doesn’t hurt to be ready with a few skeins that are 1000+ yards. (I don’t want to be caught short. Them laceweight shawls is big, sometimes.) Here I’ve got a Madelinetosh skein of laceweight that was one of the few left on the shelf at Knitty City the last time I was in New York, and some Tanis Fiber Arts laceweight. Then there are things like Noro Silk Garden that are unpredictable. I like the colours. I can make a pair of Maine Morning Mitts with one skein, or a sweater with ten, or a striped scarf with 4. I can mix and match two colourways at once, or stick with one. It’s ready and waiting.

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Lastly (for now at least), there is the “stuff that was super cool that I picked up at a festival or shop somewhere that was so pretty I had to have it and it’s going to be something awesome…just you wait.” My Miss Babs Yowza Whatta Skein purchase from this year, my Green Mountain Spinnery worsted and Fiber Optic sock from last year’s Rhinebeck, and a skein of Fleece Artist seconds that I found in Nova Scotia a couple of years ago.

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I’d be lying to you if I said that’s all there is, but those are the directions I tend to go when I purchase yarn. After a few years of knitting, I can predict some of the things I’m going to want for yarn of a given type, and tend to know my preferences, but that’s not necessarily true all the time. I also tend to stick to the same parts of the colour spectrum, but occasionally remind myself to branch out. It’s an ever-evolving approach, I suppose.

My stash sends greetings to yours! What’s your favourite yarn to look for when you’re in a yarn shop?

Happy Wednesday!

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Looping along

A couple of folks asked last week about a blog tutorial on Magic Loop, since it’s a technique I mention every so often and one that I use happily. So, ta-da! Let’s talk about that, with the aid of some photos.

I will start out with a brief proviso – Magic Loop is the popular name given to the technique of working small circumferences in the round by using a single, long circular needle, in place of a short circular, multiple double-pointed needles, or two circular needles. It is by no means my invention, and in fact I learned this technique through a collection of things – friends showed me, Elizabeth Zimmerman mentions the same basic approach in her books, and of course Bev Galeskas and Sarah Hauschka have what is arguably the most popular publication on the subject. There are likely other resources on the technique. What I’m going to show you here is the essential basics, but as for any technique, I invite you to check out your local resources and advice from other knitters on the subject. I hope this post will spark your interest at the very least!

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So: you’re interested in working in the round for small items (hats, sleeves, socks, gloves, mittens, toys, booties…snake sweaters? Flute cozies? I don’t know, there’s got to be endless options, right?), but aren’t so keen on double-pointed needles (DPNs), or at the very least you’re interested in an alternative. I definitely enjoy the magic loop technique – I still use DPNs frequently, and haven’t tossed them away, but more often I gravitate towards ML as a default.

First: you need a long circular needle, in whatever needle size is desirable for your project, and in a length no shorter than 32″. 40″ circulars are an ideal option for most needle brands, but 32″ is an option if the cord is flexible enough. (The reasons for this will become apparent later on in this post.) I find with products like Signature Needle Arts circulars, Knit Picks fixed circulars/interchangeables, and Addi Lace needles, a 32″ is all I need. With needles like Chiao Goo “red” circulars, classic Addis, and craft-store finds like Unique or Susan Bates, the cords aren’t quite as flexible and a 40″ circular is what you need. There are plenty of other brands that I haven’t managed to spend a lot of time with that are easily in play here as well,  (Dyakraft, Addi interchangeables, Lantern Moon, Hiya Hiya, etc), so if in doubt experiment until you find the ones you prefer the most. I tend to reach for the needles I do because of a combination of preferences – the cord, the materials of the needles, the pointy-ness of the tips, how well the knitting slides (or not) along the needle and cord, and so forth.

(Since I know someone will ask – here I’m using a 32″ circular from Signature Needle Arts, with a 5″ stiletto tip, and a superwash worsted from Neighbourhood Fiber Company that I found at Fibre Space in Alexandria/DC on a trip a while ago.)

Anyway, for magic loop, you’ll need a long circular needle.

The first thing you’ll do, naturally, is cast on all of your stitches as required for the pattern (first photo, above). Next, to get the stitches into working mode, you’ll divide them into two sections, one for each needle, like so:

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It’s most likely you’ll divide them evenly, but you might vary this up slightly depending on pattern. Here I have 2 sections of 22 and 20 sts, because I’m working ribbing in k1tbl, p1 on this mitten cuff, and wanted to keep the ribbing repeat intact. You’ll note that, as one would normally do for working in the round, I have made sure that the round is not ‘twisted’ around the needle, and the yarn will be pulled from the end of the round so that when I make my first stitch, the round will be complete and joined.

This is the position you will start from at the beginning of every round, and at the mid-point of every round. Many knitters refer to this as the “start position.” Your needle tips are lined up, with the work emerging below:

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To start knitting, you will first reach for the needle tip sitting in back…

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…and pull it out along with a portion of the cord.

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Now, you are ready to knit. Just start at the beginning of the round with your two needle tips and proceed as normal according to your pattern.

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When you get to the end of that side, you’ll have the Left Hand needle now sitting loose, drooping at the end of the cord that was looping around the left side.

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So, what you do is flip the work over…

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And pull that formerly droopy needle all the way through the work so that it is lined up at the beginning position just as we had before. Then, keep knitting the other side just like you did the first side.

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You’ll notice that while you work, you’ll have two loops – one on each side of the work, where the sides divide. Managing these two cord loops is, in my humble opinion, the only real difficult part of magic loop, and this is where your needle selection will make the biggest difference. Some needles swivel and twist more than others, others pull and separate at the side join more than others. Try a few kinds and see what works for you.

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There are several advantages to this technique over others. For one, you are only using one attached circular, and so there is no risk of losing one DPN of your set – both needles are always attached to each other at all times. Additionally, this method has the effect of dividing your work into two surfaces instead of 3 or 4. If you happen to be working a pattern which has an intricate pattern over the “front” and on the “back” (as for some socks – the front of the leg and the back are often identical), working this way allows you to not interrupt either of those surface with the join of a DPN, as would typically be the case for working with a set of either 4 or 5 DPNs. This also reduces the number of potential “laddering” points to two, as opposed to 3 or 4.

The only immediate downside to this is that, if you don’t own them already, you’ll have to go shopping for some long circular needles. (But on the other hand…you get to go shopping. So, still a win? ;) )

I’ve taken the liberty of putting up a short video clip on YouTube (because, uh, maybe the zillion other video clips weren’t enough? Heh), in case you’d like to see a little 3-D action on this.

Nothing like getting your Monday off to a good start with a little learnin’. May your day be as painless as possible, and with knitting waiting for you at home!

.

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Filed under demo, fearless knitting, teaching, tutorial

Gateway

[ETA]: Gateway is now available on both Patternfish and in my Ravelry store!

This past summer I travelled to San Francisco for several days following Sock Summit – you know, since I was already on the west coast and all. It was a great city to visit and I look forward to going back. One thing that did strike me (as I am sure with all tourists in that city), was how much one does really depend on knitwear even in the summer months. I spent most days with a light commercial-knit sweater, and, most gratefully, my Tibetan Dreams stole. I got used to slinging it around my neck and shoulders and thereafter attempted to achieve that “oh I just threw this elegance together” sort of look that one always wishes for when wearing lacy stoles.

On my second day there, I visited the Exploratorium/Palais de Beaux Arts, then walked all the way across Crissy Fields to the Golden Gate bridge, and back. It was a solid day of walking. (I finished at the Ghiradelli ice cream cafe, and did not care that I was surrounded by tourists doing the same thing. I regret nothing about that peanut butter sundae.) Being on my own as I was, I naturally made many attempts at self-photography in front of the bridge, trying to get a decent shot of myself. The best I came up with was this. (People tell me it’s a good shot. I rather think it was just lucky that the wind was blowing my hair in a way that obscured only half of my face instead of all of it.)

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ANYway, back to the knitting. I liked having that bit of lace to keep comfy with on breezy tourist adventures, and I remembered it long enough to want a similar piece of knitwear to bundle up with in actual cold temperatures – not just a lacy scarf, but a nice practical piece of insulation as well. It gets cold in Ontario, but that doesn’t mean a gal doesn’t want to look a little pretty while she’s getting dressed for it. This scarf pattern is the result. Presenting Gateway, my latest accessory pattern.

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I’ve written this up as a scarf in 2 sizes – a smaller, slimmer, version more typical of simple scarves, and a larger, wider version which is the one I’m modelling here. I reached for Ultra Alpaca, which is one of my favourite yarns for the fall and winter. It’s 50% wool and 50% alpaca, which means that even with a few lacy yarnovers in mix, you’re still getting a pretty warm little knit out of it. However, a variety of worsted weight yarns in wool or wool/alpaca blends – ooh, heck, even wool/silk might be a nice option – would be suitable.

The lacy stitch pattern involves yarnovers and decreases on Right Side rows only, and would be workable enough for a knitter with a little bit of lace experience and chart-reading under their belts. Once you’ve done a few pattern repeats, it’s likely you’ll have started to memorize it. This was certainly my experience! I love how the little swooshy twisted ribs and stockinette angles stack up together, slightly disjointed but also elegant. Even a bit reminiscent of the Golden Gate, one might even say.

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I’ve been wearing this all week while here in Edmonton, where the temperatures have actually been cold. (In Southern Ontario we are only just starting to recall this “cold” of which people speak.) In fact, I am led to believe it is rare for there to not be snow on the ground already by this point in November, so that’s a pretty solid reminder that winter is coming. I think I’m going to have to work up some kind of hat to complement it, so I’ll be fully kitted up in Ultra Alpaca warmth.

In any event, the week marches on as do a few more days of family activity here. I’m continuing to sneak in bits of knitting and internet time while I can, and the pace of things continues one day at a time.

Keep your knitting handy, and stay warm!

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Filed under accessories, design, finished object: accessories

Embarking on knitting adventures

This blog posting comes to you from chilly Edmonton, where I am here this week with family for my grandfather’s memorial and assorted sorting and family time. I’m snatching bits of internet time when I can, though, and am hoping to tell you about at least one new pattern release this week! In the mean time, the knitting continues, and over the past couple of weeks as the weather has turned, despite keeping busy with knitting I find myself craving it even more and more. There is no end to the number of projects I want to start, and I keep thinking of more ideas I want to work on. I’ve also been hitting the bookshelves, looking for new things to read. Sometimes I feel like I need to go back for a creative top-up, a refresher of words as well as yarn. You know?

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Writing this blog has been a great pleasure of mine these last five years (OH EM GEE, has it really been that long?) and I have no plans to quit blogging any time soon. Although I’m not able to respond to as many comments as I might like, I can reassure you that I read all of them – short ones, long ones, confused ones, excited ones. I love knitting, and I love taking on new knitting challenges. Being a part of the knitting blogosphere has broadened my impressions of what it is like to be a 21st Century knitter, of any level, and I often hear from knitters who are just starting their adventures in the crazy world of knitting.

I also sometimes hear from knitters who are relatively new to the craft who also find themselves a bit intimidated by all the choices and works that are already out there, and think something along the lines of “holy schlamoley I wonder if I’ll ever be able to do that.” And if you’ve spent more than a little bit of time with me or my blog, you’ll know that the answer in my head is, “of course you can.” Even if you can’t do that thing very well right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to in the future. No one’s on a time clock here, and you can try new skills as frequently or infrequently as you like.

If you’ve happened by this blog and you’re someone who thinks of themselves as a new or beginning knitter, I want to first congratulate you on taking up this craft and sticking with it, and also to humbly offer a few encouraging words. I love knitting and I want desperately for others to love it as much as I do. I wanted to take a post to write down a few notes based on my experiences as well as on my hopes for new knitters – and hope that you’ll continue to have all kinds of fantastic knitting adventures ahead!

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1. First, I hope you’re really excited. There’s so much to see and do in the world of knitting that it can sometimes feel intimidating, as though what you feel capable of doing is at best vastly outnumbered by what you haven’t tried yet. But the fantastic thing about knitting is that, in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter when and where you try all of these things. No one is going to look for your Knitting 101 completion certificate before allowing you to purchase a book on colour-work knitting. (But if they do, you can tell them from me to go and take a freaking flying leap and have a glass of wine.) If you’ve decided to make a laceweight shawl your 2nd project ever, no one is going to teleport into your house and rip it out of your hands and tell you you’re not “ready” for that yet.

2. Allow yourself to experience frustration. It’s a rare knitter – of any level of experience – who does not encounter any moments of frustration at all, when it comes to knitting. All of us have, at some time, been screwed over by gauge, been stressed out beyond belief over why we can’t seem to read pattern instructions properly when the rest of the world seems to have no trouble at all, been scared to try a new technique because it “seems hard,” or any number of other challenges that knitting presents us. This is all fine. It may not seem fine in the moment we are experiencing the frustration, but it is. These are war stories that you get to go off and tell the next time you’re at a knitting group or meeting a fellow knitter for coffee, and they are going to leave you a better knitter on the other side of it.

I could tell you about the first time I worked nupps, on a laceweight shawl. The first row involving nupps took me about an hour, and by the end of it I was seriously considering ripping it all out, or possibly giving it to the birds because maybe laceweight silk makes a nice nest and seriously, it would be more fun. But then I had a pause, and on the next row involving nupps, they got easier. We’ve all got some of these. (In fact, if you’ve got a favourite, I heartily endorse including one in the comments.)

3. Try new things. Every so often, let yourself be taken in by a new skein of yarn, or a new kind of needle, or a technique you haven’t tried before. You really can never tell what you will take a fancy to until you try it. When I first started knitting socks I learned on double-pointed needles (DPNs), and was religious about it. I have the DPN collection to prove it – my favourite length is 7″, so that I can work comfortably with a set of 4 – and you could have talked all you wanted about Magic Loop but no siree, I was sticking with DPNs. Then, one week, I tried Magic Loop. Now I knit all my mitts and gloves and half my socks with Magic Loop. The DPNs are still there, and I still go back to them every so often. Nobody made me throw them away when I took up with Magic Loop, and I get to choose which ones I use when.

My point here isn’t to tell you that you too should use Magic Loop as a method of working in the round on small circumferences. I don’t think everyone should do a particular thing any more than I think everyone should eat the same food every day all the time. But I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think you should try it at least once before making up your mind about it. Which leads me to…

4. Every so often, go crazy. Cast on for a project that seems way too hard. Buy yarn that seems way too fancy for you. Go along with your friends and join in for a knitalong for a project that you never would have chosen for yourself. Walk into a yarn shop you’ve never been to before. Sign up for a class just for the hell of it. Flip through a book of patterns and choose the one that’s the most ambitious of the bunch. Maybe you’ll finish it in two days, maybe you’ll learn something that will blow your mind…maybe you’ll put it down and go back to the other project you already started. Maybe it will make the other project you thought was crazy before, seem less crazy by comparison.

As knitters, we have the luxury of being able to take little risks like this all the time, and still maintain our allegiance to our craft in a way that lets us control what we do and when. It’s hard to say that about a job, for example, or even some other hobbies. Every so often, let your knitting world go a little bit off kilter, and see what happens.

5. Finally, knit what you want to knit. I say this in all sincerity and with no allusions to any particular perception of skill or worthiness. If it brings you pleasure to knit something, or if there’s something you’ve been really wanting to make but have been holding off…just knit it. Even if you encounter challenge along the way, it will be worth it because your love of the thing itself will help you to finish it. If you really really love dishcloths and you can’t get enough of them and you feel called to knit them in every colour, for every person you know, and you feel comfort in seeing the little stacks of coloured cotton squares stack up in front of you, for goodness’ sake knit those dishcloths. Eventually you may well come to the end of your dishcloth jag and pick up something else, or you may not. Either way, your dishes and everyone else’s in the neighbourhood will have the best knitting ever.

Or, if what you really really want to knit is an Aran sweater with cables all across it, in bright magenta wool because magenta is your favourite and you really don’t understand what this business of knitting Arans in boring neutral pale shades of cream and beige is all about, you go right ahead and knit yourself a magenta Aran sweater. Actually, I would really love to see that sweater. Please tell me about it when you knit it, because maybe I want to knit that sweater too. Or maybe there’s another knitter in your circle who has secretly been wanting to knit herself a cabled Aran sweater in bright chartreuse green, but she didn’t think she had permission to do that until she saw that you were doing a magenta one, and seeing yours made her say screw it, I’m doing one too.

If it brings you pleasure to knit it, then knit it. Everyone else can do as they please.

Keep well this week, and I’ll catch you next time with more knitting in hand!

[ETA: Because you asked, and because it was terrible of me to tease you! - the pictures I snapped for this post include my new Gateway scarf pattern - which I am going to be sure to do a proper blog post about soon! - and the two ready-and-waiting wound skeins up at the  top are Lorna's Laces Shepherd worsted in Raspberry, and Neighbourhood Fiber Co. superwash worsted in a lovely purple/pink mix whose colourway name I can't remember.

More soon! Family to-do-ings are keeping me busy this week. ]

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A warm finish

Yesterday morning, as I was sitting down to finish the final mitten top on my Podster mitts, it became rapidly and sinkingly clear that I was not going to have enough yarn left to finish. I was going to have about enough to make it halfway up the mitten top, and that was it.

Nov4-SwatchesPodsters

However, this was not the end of the story. One of the reasons I had grabbed this particular skein of yarn (other than the super awesome colour, and the cashmere content), was that it was already wound up into a ball. And I recalled that, one of the reasons it was already wound up into a ball was because I had used it about a year ago for some swatches. So, if I could find the swatches, I was good to go.

Lo and behold, sometimes sticking your swatches in a bag and stuffing into the back of your stash pays off in unexpected ways – because I did indeed find the swatches, and one of them happily gave its life (well, half of its life, actually), so that my mitts could be complete. (The other swatch is going back into the bag. You never know when I might need it.)

Nov5-Podsters2b

I’m happy to report that not only are my mitts a lovely and useful finished object, but that I’ve given the original pattern a bit of a sprucing up. It is largely the same, with a few improvements. My original pattern has given 2 years of good and faithful service, but I felt it was in need of some tweaks. The most significant one is that the smaller size is truly a smaller size; I wasn’t happy with the relatively small size differential between the S and L, and now there is a true inch difference in circumference. Size Small will fit a hand 6.5-7.0 ins in circumference, Size Large a hand 7.5-8.0 ins in circumference (At least, at a pattern gauge of 8 sts/inch.) I’ve also changed the ribbing from k1, p1 to k1tbl, p1, but this could always be adjusted to your own preference. Heck, do k2, p2 ribbing! Do no ribbing at all on the fingers! Go crazy.

Nov5-Podsters2e

The pattern is still available for free, and may be found in my Ravelry Store, or here on my blog as a PDF. I’ve done this pair in Tanis Fiber Arts cashmere sock, and the originals in Dream in Color Smooshy, but just about any fingering weight wool would do – if you’ve got a sock yarn stash, you’ve got a skein of yarn for this project. It uses about the same amount as you would use for a pair of socks.

Every so often I receive a request for advice on how to make this pattern to fit a child. This is indeed an adult pattern and I have kept it sized to fit small and large adult hands, so most teens would likely fit this range. However, if you are interested in knitting this for even more wee hands than that, I would recommend doing a bit of quick calculation of hand size x stitch gauge per inch, and modify your cast-on and thumb gusset increases accordingly. You might wish to simply eliminate the fingers altogether and just do one fingerless mitt cuff where the individual fingers would be.

Nov5-Podsters2

In any case, I hope your weekend is enjoyable, and that your knitting is close by! Catch you next week.

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November thoughts

Thank you all so much for your comments on Monday’s blog giveaway post! It is wonderful to read your stories of knitting on the go. And I think it says a lot about knitters that so many of us are so prepared with all sorts of different items where ever we go – not just with knitting! But you’ve got to admit, having knitting makes a lot of times a lot easier.

Random number November

I’m pleased to report a winner – thanks to the Random Number Generator the winning entrant is #321, which by my reckoning corresponds to Laura, who commented last night. I’ve sent her an email and we’ll get her hooked up with her very own Rio bag asap! Thank you all so, so much for participating. I’m sure I’ll be doing another giveaway before too long, but in the mean time I hope you’ll stick around for some regular-old knit blogging as well. ;)

Knitting continues around here this week, on a few different fronts, and I’m excited to be bringing a few new patterns your way in the coming month! Including at least one free pattern here on the blog. I’m continuing to make way for a few new projects just for myself this month as well, so that I’ll be comfy and cozy for the winter as well as hopefully a few gift recipients. My new Podsters are coming along nicely, and I do believe I’ll post a slightly revised version of this pattern when I’m done. I think there could be a better differentiation between the smaller and larger sizes (so that the small is more…smaller), so look for that soon at the very least.

Nov2-PodstersInProgress

And in other news, November has been dubbed by online knitters as “National Sweater Knitting Month,” or “NaSweKniMo” – an answer to “National Novel Writing Month” or “NaNoWriMo” (affectionately referred to as NaNo) – and while I didn’t cast on for a new project November 1st as the rules would have you do, I do fully intend to finish one of the current sweaters on the needles before the end of the month. I had such hopes for October. While I did get my Rhinebeck sweater finished, it turns out that after carting my Gwendolyn sweater and my as-yet-unfolding Briar Rose Abundance sweater around with me, as November dawns I still have a grand total of…two pairs of sleeves, and one hem.

Nov2-SweatersInProgress

I think I can improve on that progress! Here’s looking at you, November.
What do your November knitting plans include? Will you be casting on a new sweater, or are other projects catching your eye?

Happy knitting this Wednesday!

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