Whirlwind weekend

I spent last weekend in the company of many other knitters at the Vogue Knit Live workshops in New York City, and it was an enjoyable whirlwind. I was at one of the very first of these weekends four years ago in New York, and my fellow knitter friend Lisa suggested we go again. Knitting tourism weekends definitely break up the winter monotony pretty well. The part where I endeavoured to share New York tourist sites with what felt like every single other human being on the planet (Saturday of a long weekend, heh) was perhaps less adviseable, but on the other hand I did get to see the Met and do some pretty significant city walking. Also, I must express my admiration for the New York institution of weekend brunch, and would like to adopt this practice into my life more frequently. (Fried things and boozy drinks before noon? Or all day? Why am I not doing this every weekend.)

IPad for Knitting Design

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I was lucky enough to have 2 classes on Friday with Norah Gaughan, who I have never met but whose designs I have admired for a long time. I took her iPad for Knitting Design class in the morning (there we are all blurrily learning from her which apps to download while using the free hotel lobby WiFi – protip, Sketchbook Express is delightful), and Modern Sweater Styles in the afternoon. The timing could not have been better, as I have more time on my hands to spend on design work (unemployment will do that for you) at the moment, so I now have a few new ideas to work on. Norah is a great teacher.

I also took a class in top-down sweater knitting with Kristina McGowan, who is also delightful, and I may in fact be inspired to knit more than one top-down sweater as a result. Bottom-up is still my comfort zone, but I would like to stretch my skills a bit and am hoping to put to use what we learned in these classes in the coming year.

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Death Becomes Her

Chelsea Market

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I imagine living in a Vogue Knit Live city (LA and Chicago have also been frequent hosts) must be a pretty lucky situation for knitters. But of course learning can happen any time any where, so I am also going to make sure I don’t ignore the technique books I have on my shelf. Keeping your skills fresh is so important.

I hope your Thursday has some knitting in it! Until next time, friends.

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Moss stitch island

This weekend I triumphantly finished the sleeves on my Ossel dress in progress, which I made sure to complete before doing the body. I like getting the sleeves out of the way first if I can, because it’s a nice safe re-indication of gauge if for some reason my swatch was way off, and then when you later finish the body you can actually feel the accomplishment of being almost done, rather than the sagging realization that you’re only about 2/3 done or so.

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I started on the back next, partly because it’s all moss stitch and no cabling, so that means the more interesting piece (the front, with cables all down the centre) will up on deck at the time when I am most likely to be flagging due to boredom. I also like doing the back first because, again, in the event of a gauge mishap, it is easier to recover from a too-small back (you just make the front a bit bigger – proportionally there is often likely to be more of you on the front than on the back) than a too-small front, so here I am.

I’m a few inches in to the back, which on a sweater would normally be close to starting the decreases to shape the waist. Because this is a dress and not a sweater, though, I have about a zillion more inches (approximately) to go before I start the decreases for the waist, so I guess I’ll be here on moss stitch island for a while.

Good thing I’ve got some travel knitting time coming up! I am lucky enough to be headed to Vogue Knitting Live NYC this weekend for workshops and a bit of tourist time, and am glad I booked it months ago for a New Year’s surprise. I just have to, uh, pack. And knit some swatches for homework. Minor details, details.

Stay warm and cozy, knitter friends!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey

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Knitting as usual

The first week of January is coming to an end and it’s odd how quickly the holidays have faded – it feels like it should be much farther along than January 9th! But I’m quite all right with having more knitting time ahead in the month, because I’d like to finish something new at the beginning of 2015, and there are no shortage of things to work on. In addition to considering some Unfinished Projects cast aside in 2014 and (gulp) earlier, I’ve got other design ideas kicking around in my head that have been there for a few months.

At least one of them is moving forward though, as the swatches from last week are starting to take shape in actual knitted form. I’m enjoying how this is coming together so far, and am planning some time with it this weekend for sure.

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My Pi Shawl is also still hovering patiently in the background. I took it out for a spin to a viewing of The Imitation Game last weekend (and later managed to recover some dropped stitches done in the last few minutes of dark theatre knitting, phew), so if I can make it out to some more flicks pre-Oscars then I think this might have a shot at being done by the spring. Pi Shawls, you can’t knit just one, am I right?

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I hope you’re getting some nice knitting time in for you as well this coming weekend – especially if you have a lot of holiday knitting to recover from. Happy Friday!

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Pattern: In progress, by me
Yarn: Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted, in ‘moussaillon’ grey/purple

Pattern: Pi Shawl (“July shawl”, instructions with many variations in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman)
Yarn: Miss Babs Kathadin, colourway ‘holy moly’
Needles: 4.5mm/US #7 circulars

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Let’s do this

Hi there, January, I’ve been waiting for you.

You see, back in December I knitted myself a super quick and super warm garter stitch cowl, and then for weeks we actually had quite mild temperatures (Christmas was grey and rainy rather than cold and snowy), so I didn’t get to wear it for almost a month after knitting it. But January is here, and me and this cowl are going to get through the -20C or whatever you are going to throw at us. Well, me and the cowl and a down coat and some Sorel boots. But the cowl is the REAL piece of the puzzle here.

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This is what you can do with a single skein of Cascade Magnum, a pair of 12mm/US#17 needles, and about 1.5 movies on Netflix worth of time. Pretty great. It’s this sort of project that makes people go crazy for the bulky weight yarn in December – quick project, quick gift, and SO WARM.

My friend Bridget at my former Peterborough LYS made herself one of these last winter, and I wanted one too. She gave me permission to share it with you fine folks as well! Mine is a slightly modified version of hers, but here’s what I did.

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Take your skein of Cascade Magnum or equivalent yardage of another super bulky yarn, some 12mm/US#17 or so needles (Bridget used 15mm).
Cast on 22 sts.
Work every row as follows: Slip 1, knit 20, purl 1.
Repeat until it is as long as you want, or until you almost run out of yarn.
Sew that sucker up as nicely or as not nicely as you like.

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And that’s it, voila! You have a cowl I love mine. I would be lying if I said I hadn’t considered making another one, just for the satisfaction of it.

I hope your first Monday of the New Year is as painless as possible. Stay warm, knitter friends!

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New year new knits

We’re two days into 2015, and while it feels (so far) pretty similar to 2014, it is very nice to have a few days of relative quiet to ease from holiday time to regular world time. I’m still pondering my own resolutions for 2015 (I can’t say that I was very diligent about any in 2014, I must admit), but a blog reader reminded me of this list of advice I posted one year ago, and I think it’s still pretty good. I daresay I need to take my own advice on that list more often than not!

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My knitting year is starting off at a gentle yet promising pace. I cast on for Ossel as my Christmas Day Cast On (this is my second year planning a Christmas Cast On as a gift to myself, and I think I will keep it up in the future), and I’m about 1.5 sleeves into it. It’s going well so far and my swatch did yield the right gauge before I started, which I hope will be confirmed by the sleeves before I begin the body. I have never knitted a dress before, but have always thought it would be an extremely practical thing to do especially with Ontario winters being as they are. I’ll have to do a bit of planning and measuring to figure out how long I want the skirt of it to be (I am 5’9″ and I always assume the pattern sample is for someone shorter than me), but other than that it’s quite an approachable pattern and I hope I’ll be able to wear it later this same season.

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I’ve also got some fresh new swatches in some new-to-me yarn from Julie Asselin, Leizu Worsted wool-silk blend. They’re going to become a sweater and, I daresay, my first design of 2015. I’m looking forward to seeing the swatches grow up and become the pullover they deserve to be, because the yarn is pretty great so far. (We’ll just pay no attention to the fact that it’s another purple/grey sweater. I’m going to just lean into it. Perhaps I’m just destined to be at one with this colour.)

Since I finished my Joist pullover in December, I’ve also started to turn my eye to some of the unfinished Works In Progress that are waiting patiently on the sidelines, so I’d like to get back to some of them this month too. It’s nice to have a New Year with a blank slate.

I hope your New Year is starting out well – happy knitting with your fresh calendar in front of you!

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Pattern: Ossel, by Allison Green for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers, #8401 Silver Grey
Project Bag: Zig Zag Stitches, large “shawl size” wedge bag

Pattern: In progress, by me
Yarn: Julie Asselin Leizu Worsted, in ‘moussaillon’ grey/purple

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That Knitter

I am That Knitter. The knitter who doesn’t go to the movies unless she has an appropriate movie-theatre-knitting project in her handbag. My family headed out on Friday afternoon for the third annual Hobbit film outing (I can’t wait for Peter Jackson’s 107-part adaptation of The Silmarillion, it’s going to be the greatest), and I had my current Pi Shawl project with me as the likely candidate. (I’ve also become That Knitter who considers Pi Shawls as a normal and simple recurring project like socks or hats. I mean, I eventually need one in every colour….right?)

This is a project which already has a lot of stockinette in the round built into it, so as long as you’re comfortable not looking at your stitches every time, you can sail away in the darkness. The sweet spot for Pi Shawls as movie theatre knitting, though, come when you’ve just started the final big increase round and are left with nearly 600 sts on the needle. When you’re at that point every round is going to take you a while to knit it anyway, so you might as well be sitting in a theatre watching a movie at the same time.

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I hadn’t hit that point yet on the shawl pre-movie-theatre though, so I cast on a pair of ribbed socks too, just in case. I ended up sticking with the shawl anyway and getting through the k2tog/yo rounds all the same, but it’s nice to have some socks in the mix too. Now I’m That Knitter who has not one but two handbag projects to walk around town with.

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I’m spending the last few days of 2014 pretty quietly while cat-sitting for a neighbour, and have a bunch of knitting, books, and Netflix to keep me company. I have some design ideas brewing for 2015 though, so after this rest it’ll be back to recharging the creative energies.

I hope your 2014 ends well and that you have good knitting ahead in 2015!

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Pattern: Pi Shawl (“July shawl”, instructions with many variations in Knitter’s Almanac by Elizabeth Zimmerman)
Yarn: Miss Babs Kathadin, colourway ‘holy moly’
Needles: 4.5mm/US #7 circulars

Pattern: A Nice Ribbed Sock (by me)
Yarn: Socks That Rock Mediumweight, colourway ‘grawk’

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Ready for Winter

I’m pleased to report that the two purple sweaters are now both done, and ready for their first winter’s wear. My Portiere is just lovely, but hasn’t yet gotten out for proper photos yet on account of I’m feeling indecisive about the collar and whether I need to unpick it out and re-do it. You know, as one does. Anyway it’s going to be a nice pullover to, well, pull on over jeans.

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My Joist pullover is finished and completely ready for the -10C days, which, naturally, have entirely left the calendar after the chilliest November in a while, but darn it all I’m ready and waiting when they are. It has the unfortunate quality of looking odd and shapeless on the dressform (try as they might, dressform shoulders just never quite look like my own human shoulders), but on my person it fits perfectly. And thank goodness, too, because this sweater was my Christmas cast-on last year and my whole goal was to finish it before Christmas this year so that it didn’t do a 2nd lap around the calendar. So to have it finished before a 2nd Christmas AND to have it fit me is, well, the best bonus points ever. (I know some people would reverse the order of significance of those two things. It’s my weird knitter logic, just go with it).

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In between final Christmas shopping errands last week I managed to do a quick photo-taking meetup with fellow knitter pal Jane also with Finished Objects in need of photographing, and believe it or not there are non-crowded parts of the upper levels of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto that work out perfectly for this. And, possibly, one of the few opportunities to casually appear as though your finished sweater photos are part of a nice glitzy catalogue background.

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This sweater is exactly what you think it is: super cabely, super warm. It is, as fellow knitter pal Julie and I commented to each other last year when I was preparing to knit it, a yarn-eating bastard. It is also not at all the kind of sweater you want to knit yourself if you want to look slimmer, due to aforementioned cables and yardage. (Let’s just get those truths out of the way right now. If those are things that you want in a sweater, you need to be up front with yourself about those decisions when you choose sweater pattern to knit for yourself.) The cables are fantastic and that’s mostly what I cared about.

I’m quite pleased with how this came out. It’s a well written pattern with a lot going on (nicely done, Andrea Rangel), and the cable pattern is an 8-row repeat that becomes easier to remember the more you knit it. It is also so, so warm. As soon as you put this on, you immediately forget what “cold” could possibly feel like. It is a warm wooly furnace of a sweater. And the thing is, the all-over cable motif has enough of a vertical emphasis to it that there is more structure than you might think at first glance.

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I knitted this in Cascade 220 Heathers, which is one of my favourite wools and I had a bunch of it stashed to start. If I were to knit it again (hey, you never know), I’d probably choose Briggs & Little Regal (what I knitted my Portiere in, above), or similar airy sheepswool if substituting for the Brooklyn Tweed Shelter that the pattern calls for. You can’t beat 100% sheepswool for being nice and airy and sturdy at the same time, and more processed wools (even if they’re 100% wool) have a little more weight per yardage. Multiply that by 9 skeins for an all-over cabled pullover and that’s a lot of wool.

All in all though, I’m pleased with the results and now that I’ve finished both of these sweaters it’s sort of odd not having a big project on the go. Thankfully I don’t think that will be a problem for too long.

In any case, it’s holiday prep mode around these parts, and cooking and baking are chewing up more time than knitting time in the day – and no doubt a similar story for many of you! I hope you get lots of great time for all of the above this week, and can treat yourself to a fun new project to cast on just for you.
Happy holidays and happy knitting!

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Pattern: Portiere, by Fiona Ellis for Twist Collective
Yarn: Briggs & Little Regal, in ‘grape’


Pattern: Joist, by Andrea Rangel for Twist Collective
Yarn: Cascade 220 Heathers in purple/grey #9560

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