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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Two awesome purple sweaters that have no idea they are about to get finished

There must be a name for that experience, when you are about 75% finished a large project, are convinced it’s going to go on forever no matter how much you knit on it…but then when you finally do pick it up again and start working on it dedicatedly, it actually gets closer to being done much faster than you think. Like when you pony up and face your black hole knitting and it actually turns a corner and you can suddenly visualize a future in which you are wearing it instead of knitting it? There’s gotta be a name for that.

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I have managed to get to that point on not one but two sweater projects this week, through virtually no other effort than simply plunking myself on the couch with a lot of Netflix (imagine, when you actually knit on something, it gets knitted). Now I’m pleased to find myself with one sweater that is completed and blocked and just needs seaming and a collar (Portiere pullover, started about 8 weeks ago in October), and one that just needs shoulders and a collar and it will be into my winter closet (my Joist pullover, cast on last Christmas day). This is pretty great.

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The only downside of this great triumph is having to stuff my winter start-itis in a bag until these two projects are actually fully done, because I would seriously love to start some new gloves and a hat right now. However, I will focus on the finish line and there will be two new awesome purple sweaters in my closet as my prize. I do think, though, that my next sweater will be a different colour. I’ve got the grey-purple section all taken care of.

Happy weekend knitting! Hope you finish something too.

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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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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!

Strigidae Mitts

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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