Monthly Archives: March 2012

Colourful progress

I don’t know if it’s the impending spring, or the crazy up-and-down-by-15C-every-3-days temperatures, or just a little bit of March Madness, but I’m starting to feel a bit of Start-itis coming on. I know it’s not just me – knitters in the Twitter-verse have been saying the same thing all week, which makes me feel a little bit better about rounding up big piles of pink, red, green, and orange yarn earmarked for various projects which, apparently, are all about to be “next.” Of course, they can’t all be next, but the knitter in my head has always had a rich fantasy life, and she never fails to provide the ambition.

I’ve been resisting (so far – i make no promises about the coming weekend) casting on All The Things in favour of making progress on the things already on the needles. The knitter in my head had sort of hoped that I would be done with my Velvet Morning cardigan already by now, but then I reminded her that it’s only been a week since I started it, and that perhaps having almost the entire body completed in that time is really nothing to sneeze at.


I mentioned in my post about this last weekend that I’m modifying this cardigan to include a steek, so that I may work it in the round. A few of you had some questions about that and how it’s going to work. If you’re just tuning in here and haven’t heard me wax on about steeks before, or if you’ve never encountered this technique before or even heard the word ‘steek’ until you happened by my post the other day, I’m very happy to tell you more about it. As I work through this project I’ll be sure to keep you posted on what I’m doing, but here’s the basic gist of it.

In modifying Velvet Morning for work in the round, all I did was cast on as-written for the size that I wanted, in the appropriate needle size to get gauge, and add enough stitches to create a steek panel where the cardigan gap will be located at the front of the body. The rest of it will proceed as normal, with the exception that the body will be done in the round except for flat or ‘back-and-forth’.

The steek is a relatively old technique (exactly how hold, I’m not sure, but…a long while, let’s say. Norwegian knitters and Shetland knitters have been all over this for a long time), and all it is is a panel of stitches located in a spot where you want to have a gap, but avoid putting the gap in to begin with because you want to be able to work in the round. The steek stitches are not at all involved with the pattern stitches for the actual garment, except in the sense that you need to know where they are.


So, essentially, this is a technique that allows you to only work “Right Side” rows by working continuously in the round, without turning back to do the “Wrong Side.” The times when you want to use this technique are the times when working in the round and later cutting a steek is a preferable option to working “Wrong Side” rows. The most obvious and frequent application of this is for stranded colour-work, and the place where you’re most likely to encounter this technique is for things like Fair Isle sweaters (where you want gaps for armholes, cardigan fronts, etc), colour-work blankets (where you want to make a square but knit a tube first, then cut it up one side), or intricately cabled cardigans (where the cable twists occur every round or 2/3 rounds, rather than neatly alternating between RS and WS rows).

There are many different ways to work with steeks, and to reinforce them (which is something I get into when I teach this ;) ), but it always involves cutting. It’s a bit scary the first time you do it, but generally everyone still lives to tell the tale afterward.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted as progress occurs, dear knitters – I wouldn’t want you to miss out on the final cutting and sewing up! Tomorrow I’m off to Collingwood to spend a day with knitters at Grey Heron Yarns’ Knit Fest, and teach some classes (no steeking, but there will be colour-work!). I’m sure it’ll be a great time.

Happy knitting this weekend!



Filed under colour-work, fearless knitting, steeks

The Urban Collection: Armour Road Socks and Hunter Street Cowl

As March continues to, well, march on, it’s time to update you on the full complement of March patterns in the Urban Collection! (Ravelry link) the Water Street Cardigan got things off to a good start earlier in the month, and I’m pleased to add a couple of spring accessories to the mix as well. As always, these patterns take their names from cities I’ve spent time in as a knitter, and Peterborough, Ontario streets are up this month.

First, allow me to introduce the Armour Road socks (Ravelry link):


I have a confession to make. When I first started planning this collection, I gave myself a rule: no socks. I figured, heck, I’ve done a lot of sock designs in the past, so why not push myself towards other ideas? But then I got to thinking and couldn’t resist a pair of quick ones. I’ve lately been enjoying reaching for the DK or sport-weight yarns for socks every so often, since they make for relatively quick and very comfortable socks indeed.

This pair uses 1-2 skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Yellow Label DK (the line between 1 and 2 skeins is around a Size 10 Ladies’ foot, with ankle circumference of 9″ or less. Those knitting for a longer foot or wider foot/ankle circumference should grab a second skein for safety), and also shows off a lovely and simple twisted stitch pattern running down the instep and the back of the leg. They are shown here in the ‘Dove’ colourway, but would be beautiful in just about any colour you like, I think.


These are worked in the round from the cuff down, on 3.25mm needles or your preferred needle size for 6 sts/inch. I quite like the way these show off the twisted stitch motifs, because they look sleek and elegant enough that you’d hardly know they are a slightly bulkier sock than normal. I could see these becoming an easy pair to reach for instead of slippers, on a chilly morning, or worn inside clogs or boots when out and about.


One of my goals in for the Urban Collection was a set of garments that would give the knitter a diverse enough wardrobe of knitwear to dress for any occasion. I also wanted to use a variety of yarn weights, since Tanis has several beautiful yarn lines to choose from. (There are one or two yarns that haven’t popped up yet – you might take a guess from there as to what you’ll see in the April patterns! ;) ) So, this meant taking a crack at something using laceweight yarn.

Laceweight wool yarn is, no doubt about it, one of the best ‘bang for your buck’ yarns you can get. A skein of TFA Pink Label laceweight costs less than a skein of sock yarn and has yardage for days. On the other hand, I wanted to avoid using this for a shawl pattern, since I know laceweight shawls can often be intimidating, and since I’ve pulled out several cabled patterns already in this collection, I wanted to make sure I left one or two towards the simple end of the spectrum. And last year I remembered seeing all these girls on campus wearing these loose lacy cowl/scarf things, and thought heck, that’s what I want to do with this yarn.


Worn ‘single’, the Hunter Street Cowl (Ravelry link) has the appearance of a loose scarf, and worn ‘double’ wrapped around the neck it collapses and scrunches a bit into a comfier and easy accessory. Once again, this piece is shown in the ‘Dove’ colourway, but I could see it being pretty fantastic in a lot of colours. In fact, I might just snap up another skein of Pink Label for just this purpose when I cruise Tanis’ booth at the Knitter’s Frolic next month.


In thinking this pattern though, I played around for a bit with some all-over lace patterns, but in the end I decided to simplify it even further than that. What resulted was the light and lofty accessory you see here. Worked in the round with a few vertical lace panels placed on a field of stockinette, this is believe it or not a pretty speedy pattern. Completing this one (to a height of 8 inches) took me about a week, and before I’d cast it off I knew I was going to start a second one. It turned out about how I wanted, but I definitely had some leftover yarn. I thought to myself, “dude, why didn’t you just use the whole skein? So I’ve started another one (what with a fit of start-itis this past weekend), and man, this time I’m not stopping until that whole 1000-yd skein is used up. (And I include notes in the pattern about how you can do this to, and still make sure you’ve got enough to use in the final edge and bind-off.)


Thanks to Bridget for obliging me with cowl photos this past Saturday “on location” in Peterborough, and to Austen (model) and Jane (photographer) for photography help once more with the socks. Thanks also to Kate Atherley for technical editing and to Tanis once more for the collection yarn support.

And thank you, knitting friends, for your interest in these patterns! Working on this collection has been a great project and I will almost be sad to unveil the final 2 patterns in April. (Well, except I will also be happy to show them off, heh).

Happy knitting this fine Tuesday! I hope spring is treating you well so far.


Filed under accessories, design

Fun with colour. And scissors.

This weekend I hustled myself once more to Peterborough, to do a bit of hanging out with some knitter friends and do a bit of teaching. This afternoon we had a class on steeking, which I have to say just does not get old. I’ve done many steeks now and have taught this class many times, and it is still 100% fun. You get your stranded colour-work on, and then you get out the scissors, and everyone lives to tell the tale.


I always start by diving in with both feet – first we cut an unreinforced steek, then move on to various reinforcement and finishing methods. MAN, this is great. If it’s wrong to geek out over colour-work and steeking, I don’t want to be right.


And speaking of colour-work and steeking, with some bus knitting time at my disposal this weekend, I took the opportunity to start up on a project with one set of the purple/yellow-green combos I was looking at in my stash the other day. I decided to grab the Plum purple Tanis Fiber Arts aran-weight and a couple of other colours that were lying in wait as complements, and started up on a Velvet Morning cardigan.


This is a nice pattern for slightly advanced colour-work decisions, in the sense that it asks you to choose 4 colours instead of just 2, which means you need to actually stop for a second and make a decision about what colours you’ll be using. I knew the dark purple would be my main colour, and I knew I wanted to use the Lemongrass yellow/green as well. (Purple and yellow are colour-complements, so a yellowish green is approaching that nice happy colour theory balance. I dig it). So, I added in the light natural/cream to balance the pale brightness of the Lemongrass, and the paler Lilac purple to support the Plum purple with some variation in tone. I like how it’s coming out so far.


There is one main modification I’ll be making to this pattern, which should surprise absolutely no one – instead of working it flat, back-and-forth, I’ll be inserting a steek up the centre of the cardigan front to allow me to work in the round. (Since Tanis Fiber Arts Aran is a superwash wool, I will be steeking this later using a sewn reinforcement. Fun things like an unreinforced steek are only for the regular wools, sadly.) I’m a knitter who finds working with steeks more approachable than working colour-work on wrong-side purl rows, and am happy to proceed that way. (If you are the sort of knitter who prefers working wrong-side purl rows in stranded colour-work instead of steeks, I doff my cap to you good madam or sir. That is an impressive thing to me.)

The only problem about immersing myself in these techniques for teaching stints is that when it is over all I want to do is Knit All The Colour-work Things, and design a few more as well. One day. More shall come, one project at a time.

In my next post I’ll be pleased to introduce to you the two remaining Urban Collection patterns for the month of March – two relatively quick accessory knits to add to your wardrobe. In the mean time, happy knitting happy weekend, dear knitters!


Filed under Uncategorized

The next thing

This week, in between finishing up a new pattern and getting the next one ready to go, finishing up my ‘DSLR 101′ photography course and pondering what class I’d like to take next, reading the entire Hunger Games series and twitching with anticipation over the forthcoming movie, and being genuinely stymied by the sudden 15C temperature increase this week and wondering if we are skipping spring and going directly to summer (turns out we are not – normal mild spring temps ahoy for the next little while, phew), it occurred to me I’m actually in a bit of a lull, knitting-wise. It’s not that I don’t have anything to work on, but that I’ve finished enough things in the last few weeks that I’m starting to stare down a relatively fresh slate and can start to plan some new designs and new “for me” projects (I always need at least one project on the go that’s something that doesn’t come from my own brain.)

So this afternoon I sort of pulled out a bunch of my worsted weight yarn that’s been waiting for colour-work projects for, oh, ever, and started pondering it. Maybe this weekend I’ll cast on for a colour-work sweater or three.


Or, maybe I’ll just take out more yarn and look at it. (One can’t ever discount this as an enjoyable time in and of itself.) As you might guess, I’ve got a bit of a purple/yellow-green fascination going on and might finally be ready to take the plunge there.

What colours are fascinating you this week, dear knitting friends?

Happy Thursday!



Filed under Uncategorized

Urban Collection: Water Street Cardigan

Since mid-March is upon us, it’s time for the March releases in the Urban Collection to begin, and the first of these is now available! The Water St. Cardigan can be found here on Ravelry, (once the collection is complete, all patterns will also be available individually or as a set on Patternfish.) and well as part of the collection. (If you’ve already purchased the collection – or do so at any time – you’ll receive all the new patterns as they are uploaded). I’m so pleased to show this one off to you, as it is the very first one of the collection that I started on! In fact, it’s been finished for a year, and I’ve been sitting on it waiting for the rest of the collection to catch up. I think it was worth it, though, because this is a light and comfortable cardigan just perfect for that point when Spring is just peeking around the corner.



In keeping with the Urban Collection theme, the patterns are all named for streets in towns I have lived in as a knitter. March’s patterns are all named for Peterborough, Ontario, which is where I not only spent my years as an undergraduate student, but came back to teach for a short stint last year. When I did so I was very pleased to discover Needles in the Hay, a local yarn shop which had opened not long before I arrived there for my year of teaching. I made some great friends through the knitters in town, and dearly miss being able to stop in one or two afternoons a week for a knit and chat. It was really really great being in walking distance to a yarn shop, nevermind such a friendly one, and I miss it.

Needles in the Hay is situated on Water St, one of the main streets running north-south through the downtown, so it was a pretty easy decision for me to figure out what to name this one! It is a light and comfortable cardigan that is relatively simple to knit and easy to wear. I recommend this to be worn with some positive ease, 2-4 ins, depending on preference (I.e. the garment when closed, measures larger than your bust), but the open nature of the cardigan means that fit is quite flexible.



I enjoy how current knitting trends are becoming more inclusive of light knitted fabrics, and fingering weight yarns (or even laceweight!) are not an uncommon selection for sweater patterns. This cardigan uses Tanis Fiber Arts Purple Label fingering weight – a blend of superwash wool/cashmere/nylon – worked at a looser gauge of 5 sts/inch to allow for a very lofty and drapey fabric.

The hint of cashmere content in the yarn also doesn’t hurt, let me tell you! When we did the original photos (the lovely detailed shots) for these back in the fall, at one point we were paused while Jane (photographer) changed camera lenses, and (model) Emily turned to me and said, “this is really warm,” in pleased surprise. Now, I wouldn’t recommend it as a cold-weather outer layer (as secondary model Austen can attest, when I stuck it on her quickly during our January photoshoot to grab a couple more full shots as backup), but really, it does quite well as a transitional piece, and it’s pretty comfortable. I actually have a couple of large skeins of Verb For Keeping Warm wool/silk blend fingering weight that I’ve been wanting to pull out to make myself another one, but I’m betting the wool/cashmere sock yarns out there now will offer quite a few other yarn options as well. I certainly enjoyed working with the TFA Purple Label on this one!


Water Street Cardi

This piece uses only knit and purl stitches (well, and some increases and decreases, hee.) At first glance, this might look like just a regular stockinette cardigan, but actually there are one or two detailed elements that add a bit of interest and personalization, while still keeping it simple. I’ve made use of garter ridges placed around the lower portion of the sleeve, and the upper portion of the torso, inside the raglan decreases for the yoke. I really enjoy the way these add a simple amount of detail, and you can personalize for yourself how frequently you place the garter ridges – every 3-10 rows how you choose. I did them in a slightly random sequence.

The collar extends from the edges of the cardigan fronts, and is then grafted in the centre and then sewn down to the back of neck, at the top of the cardigan back. This allows for a small amount of seaming and stability in an otherwise seamless piece, and also means that there are no picked up stitches – none whatsoever! Work the sleeves in the round, work the cardigan body back and forth, then join for the raglan yoke and away you go.


Thank you again to Emily and Austen for modelling, Jane for photography, Tanis for the yarn, and Stephannie for the technical editing. I hope you’ll enjoy, and I’ll be sure to keep you updated as more March patterns are added to the collection!

Happy knitting this Thursday!



Filed under design, finished object: sweater

How many rabbit holes would you like

Fun knitterly visiting times must come to an end eventually, and now Elspeth is winding her way back States-side. It was a great visit and now I am left trying to remember what I was doing a week ago – I am quite sure there are projects still to be worked on and emails to be checked and internet to be caught up on, but my energy level is about enough to allow me to make a cup of tea and drink it, so maybe regularly scheduled programming will resume tomorrow.

But we did certainly cram in lots of fun stuff into a week. Elspeth even kindly went along with me to Peterborough where I taught an all-day class on EPS (Elizabeth’s Percentage System) yoked sweaters and colour-work, which was gangs of fun as always (and I’ll be doing it again in Waterloo in mid-April! Hurray!)



I also made sure we got Elspeth over to Niagara Falls, since she’d never been, and she pronounced it excellent. And then we took some finished sweater photos in front of it, as one does. (I have to say, that is actually a recommendable location for knitwear photography. In March the hoardes of summer tourists aren’t quite there yet, and everyone is so busy taking pictures of themselves/their families/their friends/their tiny children in front of the Falls that no one thinks it’s at all weird that you’re taking Finished Object photos of sweaters there.)



The other fun part of being knitters en route back from Niagara Falls towards Hamilton is the side jaunt to Stitch, in Jordan Station. You wind off the highway for several minutes and then suddenly you’re in a tiny pretty town with wineries. And, as it happens, a store with lots of yarn and fabric. I enjoyed watching Elspeth briefly lose her mind and snatch up all kinds of pretty supplies, but managed so far to resist that particular snare. But maybe I’ll wake up in the middle of the night next Wednesday and suddenly be seized with the urge to cut fabric and sew things – that stuff is awfully pretty.


And earlier on Friday afternoon (which now seems like a lifetime ago), we ended up getting the last tour of the day at Dundurn Castle, and it turns out that if you get the last tour of the day on a slow almost-spring Friday, you get your fill of the shortbread cookies in the kitchen at the end of the tour. (Note to self: eat more shortbread.)




In summary, knitterly visits are awesome, even if resuming normal pace of life afterwards takes a bit of transition time.

Next time from me, look out for more new pattern chatter! The next pieces in the Urban Collection are soon to be live. Happy knitting this almost-spring Monday!



Filed under Uncategorized

The finish line is worth it

It’s done! Gwendolyn is done! Guys, I can’t remember the last time I took seven months to finish knitting something. I mean, I did knit other things in that same seven months, so I can cut myself some slack there, but still. That much time between start and finish can mess with your head a little. And I had some gauge indecision in there, and changed sizes, and modified the sleeves a little bit, so by the time I got to the sewing up I think my brain was genuinely curious to see what was going to happen next. It also occurred to me that since I know Fiona, there was every likelihood that if I messed it up, I would personally have to tell her about it. (Kim even wrote me a note about it in case I ended up needing a permission slip, which I thought was really very considerate.)

As it turns out, I don’t think I messed it up at all.


Cables, cables, CABLES. Gimme gimme.

What can I say but this is a lovely pattern – which shouldn’t be all that surprising, given that over 100 other folks on Ravelry have knitted it. I wanted it as a comfortable, wear-anywhere-you-want sort of sweater, and I am well pleased with the result. The yarn is Cascade 220 Heathers, in a nice turquoise colour. The trim (a detail included in the pattern) is also a Cascade 220 Heather in a brownish/purplish/reddish colour, leftover from a past sweater.


In choosing the size, as it turns out, all I needed to do was choose the actual pattern size that I wanted as listed, and then just knit that size. (One needle size down, though.) It blocked out to the intended size after washing, but then over a period of drying actually sucked back up a bit of width, then somehow worked out just fine. I am very glad that I made the decision back in January to stop knitting the original size I had chosen and go back up one size. It lost me some knitting time in the bargain, but turned out to be the right move.


I did, as per usual, do some modification.

I’d heard feedback from a couple of friends/Ravellers that their sleeves had turned out a titch larger than they wanted, so I modified the sleeves to be a bit slimmer by a few stitches, but also added in some ribbing at the inside of the sleeve. I accomplished this by simply continuing the ribbing from the cuff just at the edges where it wouldn’t interrupt the main cable panel, and gradually incorporated more ribbing as I increased.


I also added about 3 inches in length, which is a pretty typical modification for me since I am 5’9″ tall. Especially for cardigans, I like making sure it hits me just nicely over the hip. Modifying for length is one of the easiest modifications you can do for yourself, and I am a big fan – just take the tape measure out one day when you’re with a fellow like-minded knitter, and measure from your shoulders down to where you want things to stop. Or, measure a sweater that fits you really pleasantly, and measure how long it is. (also possibly how wide, etc).

Finally, I worked the button-band to be the same as the trim around the cuffs and hem, with just the outer 2 rows and bind-off done in the contrast colour, rather than working the entire button-band in the contrast colour.


In conclusion, HURRAY I HAVE A NEW SWEATER! I’ve worn it the past 2 days and may well wear it again today to Niagara Falls, for Elspeth’s last day Canada-side. If wearing the same outfit 3 days in a row is wrong, then I don’t want to be right.

Happy knitting this fine Sunday!



Filed under cables, fearless knitting, finished object: sweater