New Pattern: Strigidae Mitts

Knitter friends, I need to do a bit of catch-up! Last month I showed you some fingerless mitts I was working on, including a new design in the works. I’ve finished it up, and the Strigidae Mitts pattern is now available in my Ravelry store!

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I have been enjoying wearing these indoors lately as a keep-warm-at-my-desk accessory on chilly days, but the original pair that I knitted quite a while ago has long been a keep-in-the-handbag-just-in-case accessory in fall and spring. All in all I am really enjoying keeping fingerless mitts in the knitting rotation, they come in handier at more times of the year than I’d thought.

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These take about 275 yards of sock yarn or fingering weight yarn – shown here in Miss Babs Cosmic sock yarn, in ‘russet’ brown. The pattern is also written for 2 sizes, to fit hand circumference 6.25-6.75 (7-7.75) inches around for a relatively snug fit – zero ease or negative ease – from the nice sleek twisted ribbing all over the mitt.

The name ‘Strigidae’ is the proper name for an order of owls common to North America, and I liked it for the little cabled stitch pattern across the back of the hand. To me they look a lot like little owls peeking out from the trees. And it’s a nice little decorative accent to show off.

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I hope you enjoy the pattern, friends! I’ll catch you next time with, hopefully, a finished project behind me. Have a great Wednesday.

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9 Ways Stitch Markers Will Make Your Life Easier

It’s coming up on gift-giving season (lalala let’s pretend there’s more time, lalala), and little gifts for knitters are always a good thing to mention out loud to your gift-giving inclined friends, or to know about to give to other knitters in your circle. Even if it weren’t that time of year, though, there are always certain little knitting notions that I can’t ever seem to get enough of. I know I own approximately 37 retractable measuring tapes, but they disappear into project bags and handbags and, you know, the ether, and I will never turn down a new one.

The same goes for stitch markers. There are so, so many kinds of stitch markers out there, and they are so cheap, and so freaking tiny that they disappear on their own without even trying. I recently tossed a purse trying to find a USB drive and 3 stitch markers fell out that I hadn’t realized I’d been hoarding – I probably needed them really badly that one time on that train that day, why couldn’t I have discovered them then?

Anyway, the point is, stitch markers are awesome. Here are at least 9 things you can do with them.

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1. Marking the beginning of a round

This is probably the first thing we learn as knitters when working a project in the round – or at least second, right after “join, being careful not to twist.” And let’s face it, that’s an instruction we’re all pretty familiar with too. You need something that is going to make it very, very obvious that you are transitioning back to the beginning of the round, especially if you’re working with a charted pattern or have to count rounds. This is where I like to use a fun-looking stitch marker with a little dangly decoration or bead, because let’s face it, on some projects getting through an entire round is a mini celebration all by itself.

(Above: my in-progress Joist pullover in Cascade 220 Heathers from last winter)

2. Right Side vs. Wrong Side

Another one of the most useful steps for newer knitters working ‘flat’ items (as opposed to ‘in the round’) is to keep good track of your Right Side (the side you want the world to see) vs. Wrong Side (the side you probably never want anybody to see ever). Just stick an openable stitch marker in a bright colour (or a safety pin) on the Right Side of the work and then you’ll always know where you’re at in tracking your stitch pattern.

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3. Marking horizontal stitch repeats

If you’re working not only in the round but with a stitch pattern that is repeated a number of times around the circumference of the project, you may find yourself in need of some markers to step in between each stitch pattern repeat. This helps you keep track of what you’re doing and will help you to notice sooner if you’ve done something wrong. For example, if each stitch repeat ends up with a “knit 3 sts” instruction and you get to the stitch marker and have only knitted 2 sts and not 3, that means you’ve got to stop and figure out where you lost a stitch.

(Above: a pair of Jaywalkers socks in Lorna’s Laces Shepherd Sock on my needles this past summer. Cute dangly stitch marker divides between the 2 stitch repeats across the foot of the sock).

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4. Marking vertical stitch repeats

Related, but less often used, is the technique of placing an openable, ‘locking’ stitch marker at the beginning of a chart repeat to make it easier to count the number of vertical rows or rounds before needing to start the next repeat. This is especially useful on projects with large cables, which make it harder to count rows. If you place a stitch marker on a stretch of plain knitting near the cable, counting rows becomes a million times easier.

The openable, locking kind of stitch marker is extremely versatile, and can be used in almost any stitch marker situation. (I can’t think of one it won’t work in, but that doesn’t mean that situation isn’t out there). Clover, Knitter’s Pride, and KnitPicks all make them, and lots of other folks probably do too. I will keep buying them from pretty much anyone who makes them.

(Above: a current hat in progress in Cascade 220 that is about to get ripped out and re-knit with a different stitch combo.)

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5. Holding onto a dropped stitch

I’ve been knitting pretty obsessively for 10 years and I still drop stitches all the time. Most of the time I manage to catch them quickly and scoop them up and keep on knitting, but if you’ve dropped one several rows back and don’t notice until much later, you need to do some triage. Hold it safely on a lockable stitch marker and then go back and deal with it later.

This is exactly what I did with my Uji cardigan, pictured above, and I blogged all about it at the time.

6. Seaming garments

One of the final step of working up a sweater that has been worked flat in pieces, is to sew it together along a number of different seams. It’s important to make the side seams in particular match up, especially if you’ve done waist shaping decreases and increases that would, ideally, end up being placed symmetrically on either side of the seam.

To prepare this in advance, use your locking stitch markers (or safety pins), to match together the pieces that you’re about to seam, making sure they line up properly before you sew – and possibly un-sew – the final garment. Just remove the markers as you work the seam.

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7. Marking button-hole placement

Again in the sweater-finishing department, if you’ve got a cardigan that needs button-holes worked up along the band or collar, it’s a much easier process if you can set it up in advance. Use your openable stitch markers (or safety pins) to mark the placement of your buttons, ensuring that they are evenly spaced out along the length of the cardigan front. Then go ahead and pick up stitches for the button-band (or however the band is worked). Once you’ve got it all crumpled up working the button-band, it’s much harder to tell how evenly spaced the button-holes will be.

(Above, my original Chatelaine cardigan in Madelinetosh DK, getting its final touches a couple of years ago).

8. Marking increases and decreases

In a similar vein to marking your stitch pattern repeats, it’s often easier to keep track of your increases and decreases by marking them out – or marking every 2nd one – with a stitch marker. Especially if you’ve got a complex project with cables or textured patterns that might hide the increases, or if you’re working with a dark colour that’s harder to see them on.

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9. Tracking different parts of your garment

If you’re knitting a sweater from the top down, you’ll have several inches of knitting before the clear sweater-ish shape starts to emerge. At a glance, it’s hard to tell where your sleeves are starting versus the body (or back and fronts, if it’s a cardigan). The pattern will probably tell you to place markers on the needles to mark this (like in the photo above, where you can see the little purple rings along the needles), and it’s a lifesaver.

I like going the extra mile and busting out the super bright coloured markers, for their very existence has been building up to occasions just such as these. Why not throw a bright pink one on the sleeves sections, or bright green on the back, for example. If there is the added step of working different stitch pattern setups on each section, there’s every reason to ramp up the stitch marker attention.

(Above, my Lempicka cardigan still in progress, from last winter, in Berroco Ultra Alpaca)

All in all, stitch markers are great. I hope you’ve got lots. What stitch markers are you using right now?

Happy knitting this fine Tuesday!

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On the Needles: The Pre-Winter Crazy Edition

As the temperatures decline, the knitting impulse ramps up, so it’s no surprise that I have mentally cast on about twelve new things this week. In physical reality, though, I’ve already got plenty of projects on the needles, so I’m trying to keep the cast-on impulse as the motivation to finish the things I’ve already got going. After all, knitting on active projects is still the most reasonable route towards acquiring a finished project. (Or so I’ve heard).

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First up I’ve got the Portiere pullover that I started back over the Rhinebeck weekend in October. I got a pretty solid chunk of knitting done on this on my travels to the US and to the UK, between airport time and airplane time, but since then it’s been sitting idle while I’ve been turning my attention to some accessory knits. Self, you want to wear this pullover because it is currently cold outside. Get back to it.

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And speaking of self-pep-talks, I’ve remembered about some unfinished knits from last season – in particular the super warm and cabley Joist pullover , which I got about 85% done by April and then put down since, well, I suppose because it was April and I was less interested in knitting an all-over cabled pullover at that point. But now all I can think about is being warm, so this would be pretty sweet to get back in the mix. I also remembered that I started this one on Christmas Day as my Christmas cast-on, and I would really like to have it finished before Christmas Day rolls around again. Goal: set.

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Finally, a week ago I pulled a long-stashed skein of Dream in Color Starry from the sock yarn stash and started a new pair of Viper Pilots, partly as a new pattern sample (I’m refreshing the pattern since it’s been on the pattern shelf for a while), and also partly because I can sadly only find one of the original pair, and what if I need to wear my Viper Pilots socks at a moment’s notice and only have one? I mean, that simply wouldn’t do.

I’m also suddenly aware, now that I take all of these out to look at them at once, that everything I’ve got going at the moment falls into a similar grey-purple colour scheme, so perhaps something non-grey/non-purple will be a wise selection soon. A bit of a colour change can do wonders for the knitting excitement, am I right?

It’s hard to believe November is already more than half over. With any luck it will expand to encompass all of these projects being finished. I live in hope.

What’s on your needles this week, knitter friends? Have a great weekend!

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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

Pattern: Viper Pilots socks (by me) – Ravelry link
Yarn: Dream in Color Starry, in ‘cocoa kiss’

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New Pattern: Rustique Cardigan

This past October I knitted 2 sweaters for my Rhinebeck weekend, one for each day of the weekend. And for the first time in a few years, not only did I finish both sweaters in time to be able to wear them, but it was also cool enough at the fair to wear them un-ironically. My little group arrived at the fair on the Saturday, expecting by all accounts to need to de-layer by mid-morning, only to realize we actually needed to layer-up a bit more. The shawls and fingerless mitts also came out, so essentially we all lived our dreams of being as covered in knitwear as it is possible to be without needing real coats as well. A+ all things considered.

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My Sunday cardigan (above) was super cozy, and I’m very glad to have it knitted up in perfect time for the November chill to arrive (and boy has it arrived in full force this week), and also to have it written up as a new pattern. I’m so pleased to offer the Rustique Cardigan – available as a Ravelry download for $7 CDN. Earlier this month when I was teaching some classes in Peterborough, Bridget of Needles in The Hay graciously obliged me with some superior sweater-modelling skills, thanks Bridget!

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This is a raglan cardigan worked from the bottom up, in pieces, featuring modest waist shaping and vertical cable panels on all pieces. It’s a cushy, cozy knit as it is, but I’m very pleased with the shawl collar as well, to take away some of the chill at the back of the neck. At an Aran-weight gauge of 16 sts/4 ins (stockinette), it’s also pretty warm and quick compared to lighter gauges. As usual, all cabled patterns are fully charted in the pattern instructions, and I also include some basic tips on working the cables without a cable needle (it’s my go-to method for most cables). The pattern has been fully tech edited as well.

I worked this up in Imperial Yarns Columbia, a nice wooly wool that does quite nicely at 4 sts/inch. (though it is listed as a worsted weight, typical worsted weight gauge of 4.5-5 sts inch was far too stiff for my preference). Another nice choice would be Briggs & Little Heritage, for which I achieve the same gauge as Imperial Columbia pretty easily. Or, your preferred Aran-weight wooly option!

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All in all I’m glad to share this with you – hopefully a perfect warm layer to take you well into winter. And if this winter is anything like last, I fully plan to go in with more new handknits than I know what to do with.

Rustique Cardigan – Ravelry page listing.

Happy knitting this Tuesday! I hope you’re warm and cozy where you are.

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Just getting started

So, last winter I had a personal epiphany about fingerless mitts.

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I’ve always liked them, and especially the relative quickness of them compared to full gloves – once you finish dividing for the thumb it’s an inch or two of straight knitting and then a few thumb rows to pick up, and boom you’re done. But I’d always had them in the transitional-season-only category of fall and spring, which limited the amount of attention I gave them. In southern Ontario those two seasons might only really last a couple of weeks, so I didn’t really figure on fingerless mitts that much.

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Then, last year I joined the ranks of commuters and those with office jobs, and realized the joys of entering your office between November and March to discover on any given morning that the air temperature is not actually terribly different from the outside world (or so it feels some mornings), and I came to rely on having not just a shawl draped over my chair but a pair of fingerless mitts stashed in my desk. Probably just like, oh, most of the rest of the knitting world does already. (I’m slow to catch on some times).

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Now that I’m in between jobs again and putting in some time at the computer working on knitting patterns and whatnot, I’ve been enjoying the mitts again, so this fall I decided to put on a push to add to the fingerless mitts collection before too much time passed. I finished a fresh pair of Queen St. mitts (above, top), and also pulled out a mitt design from a couple of years ago (above) that never saw the light of day. I’m making sure it sees the light of day now, though, and am working up a new sample in some of the Miss Babs sock yarn I purchased at Rhinebeck this past month. I am already wearing them, in my mind.

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It’s also pretty great to be pulling sock yarn into service for non-sock projects. I forget sometimes, in my haste to keep knitting more pairs of plain ribbed socks or Jaywalkers, that that yarn can do other things, too – and it’s a good thing, because it’s so fine and dressy looking that it’s hard not to be pleased with the finished project, no matter what it is. Maybe I’ll get on a sock yarn hat jag next.

But I’m at least going to finish this next pair of fingerless mitts first. I might need a backup pair or three.

Happy knitting this Thursday!

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Pattern: Queen St. mitts
Yarn: Tanis Fiber Arts blue label sock yarn, in ‘velvet’

Pattern: Strigidae Mitts (coming soon)
Yarn: Miss Babs cosmic hand painted sock yarn, in ‘russet’

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There and back again

Dear knitting blog,

I am back from England, and I don’t think I saw the whole country but my feet are slightly convinced otherwise. I will have to go back again some time once they recover. Windsor Castle, the Tower of London, the Tate Britain, Roman baths, Jane Austen centre, Victoria & Albert museum, the National Portrait Gallery, Bletchley Park, Oxford University (and Blackwell’s bookstore), Loop yarn shop of London, you were all fabulous. Save me some tea and fish & chips and we’ll do it all again some time.

I knitted a bit in transit, and have an almost finished fresh pair of Queen St. mitts to show for it along with a half-finished pair of ribbed socks, and now that I’m home again I am finally able to tackle some pattern notes for some new designs. Looking forward to a week of respite and rejuvenation.

With fondest regards,

Me.

P.S. While I was away everything dropped to freezing and now I want to knit all the things. No assistance required, XOXOXO.

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Cognitive recalibration

I’ve once again joined the ranks of the unemployed (my job contract ended) hopefully not for too long, but while I’m here I decided to take full advantage and get out into the world to visit friends that live elsewhere. This past week (weekend that turned into a week) I headed south to the Rhinebeck festival (New York Sheep and Wool festival) and tacked on some visiting in DC and NY on either end. Pretty good time and nice visiting all around, along with some awesome knitting.

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I even managed to finish knitting both of the sweaters I had on the docket to wear for Rhinebeck (though I do still have to write up my pattern notes on the new cabled cardi, which is warm and wooly and I am so glad I knitted it), and could easily do a “Pi Shawl goes to Rhinebeck” post just talking about how many people asked me about the eggplant one I was wearing wrapped and scrunched around my neck as an extra layer all weekend. Now the group I was with are all planning Pi Shawl knits of their own which just delights me no end.

I’m not letting the grass grow around me for too long though – I’m home again only briefly before setting off for a week in London, where a knitter pal awaits and much tourism shall ensue. Cognitive recalibration perhaps – let’s just focus on knitting and leisure and the rest of the world will still be here when I get back.

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I suppose it says something about me that when I say I “only” bought yarn for 1 sweater and 4 accessories, that was me keeping my Rhinebeck purchases a little light. (It would not be unusual for me to return with at least 3 sweaters’ worth, but since I got up close and personal with my stash recently I’m trying to at least attempt some moderation, so.) Above, these are a skein of sock yarn and a massive black-and-red skein of Kathadin from Miss Babs, and 2 turquoise skeins of Mediumweight and 1 skein of purple and green Heavyweight Socks That Rock. Together I’m planning for these to become 2 shawls, a fingerless mitt set and a regular pair of mitts. The delicious pile of oatmeal Shepherd’s Wool is a new-to-me yarn that is, I think, destined to become a cabled pullover of some kind.

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All in all a good week. I even started a Portiere for myself in Briggs & Little Regal, which already has 2 sleeves and I’m starting the back. If I should be so speedy as to finish it while travelling again this coming week then I’ve got another sweater prepped and coming with me, along with a pair of socks and a pair of fingerless mitts in progress. (Travel time expands into infinite knitting time, right? I thought so.)

Whereever you are at this week, I hope you’re knitting something awesome! Catch you next time, knitter pals.

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