Monday, January 29, 2007

Moving the Peanut Forward

I recently heard Stephanie Pearl-McPhee (aka the Yarn Harlot) interviewed about the success of her fundraising efforts for Doctors without Borders. At last count, the total was $320,000. She surmised that "Knitters think differently. They truly understand the power of cumulative effect." I've been thinking a lot about this comment over the last few days. She's right. None of us calculates the total number of stitches to be processed to complete our heart's desire. We simply cast on and keep at it. If we screw up, we frog, move on or eat chocolate but for the most part, we forge on until the job is done. It's a skill that informs many parts of our lives - as parents, friends and business people.

In what way do you believe knitters think differently?

As I try to celebrate the power of the "cumulative effect" with Poppy - I'm in awe of Noro's ability to create these amazing colour changes. Here she is with her back now complete. I decided to finish the back to get the measurement across so I could plan my sleeve length. The pattern calls for a 25" sleeve and some of the finished Poppies I've seen look a bit too long for my taste. I've measured wrist to wrist and will probably excuse one row between each of the increases..maybe two. I'll do the math when I have more than two hours of sleep per night under my belt.

I'm also having a blast working on the Lake Park hat with my handspun. I often find that my finished knitted objects are filled with memories that are evoked after they're done. I wear them and reflect on where I bought the yarn, what movies I watched or what life event was transpiring while I was working on the project. Knitting with your own handspun has the same effect except the yarn has built in memories already. Store bought yarn is a blank canvass when it comes into your stash. As I knit this hat, I think about how this roving was the first roving I ever bought or spun with. I think about what a great time I had with Hope, Lolly, Anmiryam, Nicole and Adrianne at Stitches East when I bought it. I think of those first clumsy spinning lessons as my very patient teachers coached from behind a glass of wine. I will definitely be knitting more of my handspun. It's very Zen.

I treated myself to a new knitting bag. It's the Lexie Barnes Lady B bag in one of their new colourways "Baja".

I bought it because of the pink and black but once I had it for a few days - I noticed that the flowers were actually hiding little faces. This type of little surprise delights the heck out of me. Seriously...I need to knit myself a life.

I zipped up to the Needle Emporium last Friday to visit Julie. In addition to cashing in my Christmas gift certificate on some Blue Sky Silk Alpaca (later about that), I got a gander at the preview for the new Rowan Spring books. Rowan has dispensed with the awkward posters and put together a catalogue with images from their entire Spring offering. Rowan 41 is right up my alley (reader caution alley tends to wander into places like Oz and Wonderland). I recall a lacy long-sleeved sweater in Kid Silk Haze that tied under the bust with a beautiful bow. A romantic cardigan in their new yarn Damask with flowers around the neckline in Damask and Kid Silk Haze. They're offering a Bamboo yarn supported by a separate book that has a real "Memoirs of a Geisha" vibe to it. RYC has a yarn called Cotton Jeans that has some classic beautiful cabled patterns. The books will hopefully be here soon. I'm just waiting for the call from Julie that the eagle has landed to make the pilgrimage.

There's no doubt that the new Spring line will see me stashing up for a project or two. It's a damn good thing I appreciate the cumulative effect and don't focus on the whole job at hand...the alternative would result in a yarn diet. Perish the thought!

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Hey! Wasn't January supposed to be quiet? It seems as though everyone I talk to has hit the ground running this new year. As I help the offspring gear up for final exams, deal with lots going on at work and 4 articles due all this coming week...I look forward to a quieter February. Hopefully, with more knitting time.

My knitting lately seems to be all about "firsts". I mentioned before that I have a propensity to stash, hoard Noro would be a more appropriate description. I buy, I fondle every now and then but I never get around to knitting it. I keep saving it for the next better pattern. Poppy was the turning point so, for the first time, I'm actually knitting with Noro. It is addictive watching those colours shade one into the next.

Here is Poppy thus far. I did a provisional cast on and then just winged the purl rows and colour rows. I'm fairly pleased with how it worked out. The experience was very liberating. I had heard on the Ready Set Knit podcast (by the owners of Webs yarn store) that instead of a 3 needle bind off, a better finish was to put both sides onto one needle one back stitch, one front, one back etc. alternating the stitches so each stitch was next to it's mate. The stitches were then purled and bound off. It was said to give a very seamless finish. I thought I'd give it a whirl but really didn't like how it looked. The stitches were very loose and it was a PITA to put all the stitches on one needle. It's hard to envision the directions by listening so, if anyone knows what I'm describing and has a visual link - I'd love to figure this one out. Once the bind off was complete (the 3 needle method) I picked up the edge and have started the top portion. This is a quick knit and looks stunning on everyone who's done it so far. Here is Stephannie's Poppy and I found this one the other night while surfing. Now doesn't that make you want to go out and make it?

My other first this month was to finally knit with my own handspun yarn. Now this has excited me more than I could imagine. Learning to spin has really informed my knitting as I've learned so much about the breeds, ply and other factors that give the yarn its character. I did have a bit of a frustrating moment when winding my handspun onto the ball winder it got all tangled up in the umbrella swift. I had an appointment and didn't have time to untangle it so I left it in a mess and took off. When I came home, I found this. My husband had painstakingly untangled my handspun and trailed it carefully around the dining room table so I could wind it back up. Now THERE'S a Valentine's present!

After winding the centre pull balls, I started to swatch. I can see the irregularities and the stitches do seem to twist a bit towards the top of the swatch (I think they call that being energized) but I'm extremely pleased with the results. This is a 2 ply yarn of merino roving from Grafton Fibers in hot pink, black and orange plied with a rose colour merino roving from the Black Lamb. I love the way the colours intertwine. I need to get 22 stitches to 4 inches to make Marnie's Lakepark hat and as luck would have it, I got gauge bang on! This is one project I'm excited about and with the frosty weather finally arriving - It's definitely hat weather. In fact, sub zero temperatures are perfect for ice wine so my pick this week is Peller Estates Cabernet Franc Ice Wine. It's the nectar of the gods. Sweet and tasting of strawberries. Perfect with chocolate!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

She who dies with the most toys wins

I love the toys that go along with my fibre addiction. Spinning has been especially great because it naturally lends itself to lots of cool extras. As I mentioned in a previous post, the new Louet Victoria spinning wheel caught my eye when it was unveiled in advertising last fall. Clocking in at just over 6 lbs and folding up into a back pack - it's the perfect wheel to grab and go. Lettuce Knit sold their one wheel right out of the box and I didn't have a chance to try it. Apparently, the January shipments are all sold out as well. Then, a miracle happened. A co-worker of mine who spins had mentioned the Victoria to her husband at the end of November. She just mentioned it in passing but this charming fellow hunted it down for her as a Christmas gift. He mentioned to me at the company Christmas party that he'd bought it for her and she was kind enough to invite me over New Year's eve day to give the Victoria a try. This is what the bag looks like. It can be carried like a soft briefcase or as a back pack. It is incredibly light and everything tucks inside nicely.

In spite of its light weight, the Victoria feels quite sturdy. My co-worker's wheel is made from Oak and it's very pretty.

Here is how it looks set up and ready to spin. It's about a 30 second process to get this wheel ready to go - truly portable. I was able to spin on the wheel for about an hour or so. It's Scotch Tension and the treadling is very smooth. I enjoyed it very much and Louet appears to have struck a great balance between portability and engineering. It's very quiet too.

To give you a sense of scale, here's Victoria lined up with my Schacht and my friend's other wheel - a Majacraft Suzie. As you can see, it is quite the petite lady compared to the other wheels. I have my name on the March waiting list but I'll have to check in and see how my Wee Robin is doing first. I see the Victoria as a great option for the various demonstrations that my guild is fond of participating in so, I may be a three wheel spinner!

When I was last at Gemini Fibres, I purchased a McMorran balance (official spinning tool of Greys Anatomy). As I start to produce "knittable" yarn, the next big question is "How the heck much do I have?" This gizmo takes a length of yarn looped over the end of the balance which you snip a bit at a time until the balance is horizontal. The length is measured (in cm for me) and then divided by 10. That number equals the metres per 100g of yarn you have.

I needed a scale (which my husband produced since he has to weigh the hardware that goes in his RC planes) and I found I had 111g of some handspun from a few months ago. My strand once balanced (you can see where I snipped the ends off to get the right length to balance) measured 17cm so my calculations indicated 1.7m per 100g of yarn or around 188m total for my 111g.

Here's a shot of the handspun that I'm getting ready to knit. I'm planning to make the beautiful hat that Marnie from Marnie Talks has designed and very generously posted to her blog. She's indicated 40g should work so I'm confident that I'll have enough. She's just posted a pattern for matching fingerless gloves....hmmm, think I'll have enough?

I did get my Woolee Winder for Christmas so, as soon as I finish my current bobbin - on it goes. I can't wait to try it.

I guess we knitters and spinners are a tacticle bunch with the minds of engineers and hearts of artists. I'm amazed at each new development (and the discovery of old ones that are "new to me").

I'm still a discriminating junkie though - I've no desire to acquire the Knit-light needles.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Should Old Yarn Stashes Be Forgot.....

I happen to adore making resolutions. It's my favourite part of New Years. While my list for 2007 sports the usual goals (lose 5 lbs....find world peace), I do have a few knitting related goals that I'd like to focus upon in the upcoming year.

#1: More small projects

My husband flies RC planes and I whipped off a pair of fingerless Fetching mittens in no time flat. I promised myself I'd have them done by 2007 since the annual "Frozen Finger Fun Fly" is always New Year's Day. I wove in the last end 23 seconds before the ball dropped. These were fun and I left off the picot finish and altered them to better fit man-sized hands. It was a reminder that small projects like socks, hats and scarves can give just as much a rush and still provide the thrill of the finish.

#2: Get back to cables

Just doing the few quick cables on the Fetching Mittens has reminded me of how much I enjoy cables. I loved every minute of Inishmore and I need to embark upon a big fat hairy cabled project. I love the looks of this design from the upcoming Winter 2007 Vogue. It's by Nora Gaughan and I adore it. It calls for Aran weight merino yarn. Hmmm, maybe my stashed Jo Sharp Silkroad Aran in Alabaster will do the trick?

#3: Get a dress form

I often wish that I could fit my projects as they are being made. If I had a good quality dress form - this may help considerably.

#4: More Noro

Gee aren't resolutions supposed to be challenges? I've stashed a lot of Noro in my day and finally a little birdie (aka and she knits too) told me to get over it and unleash it from the stash. I quickly cast on for Poppy and I'm thoroughly enjoying the bottom part made of Cash Iroha. Here's my progress on the bottom so far. I had a lovely day last Friday at Lettuce Knit in Toronto and I had an opportunity to see Steph's Poppy done in amazing olive tones. Stay tuned for her finished sweater - it's going to be stunning!

#5: Experiment with different fibres and "indie-designers".

Time Magazine says the person of the year is us. This is because the Internet has allowed all of us to pull up the old orange crate and grab our 15 minutes of fame. This means independent designers now have a wonderful forum. I'm really loving designs by people like Bonne Marie and Stitch Diva. I've also started to buy my roving at interesting places. Here's some new roving I got from Scout's Swag in a cool colourway called "Strange Days. It appears to be a mix of breeds but is 100% wool.

I also resolve to become adept at the chained singles method of plying to try and preserve the colour transitions.

#6: Knit with my hand spun

Now that I'm actually producing yarn that's usable, it's time to start working with the stuff. My true goal is to make lace weight yarn but in the mean time, I'll start with the easy stuff. I just downloaded a great cabled hat pattern from Jenna at the Girl from Auntie. She is the Jenna of the Rogue design that has taken the world by storm. This hat pattern can be easily altered to match whatever gauge yarn you're working with and it's a really pretty hat. Perfect for hand spun that can be a bit unpredictable still.

#7: Make time for knitting

I love knitting so much that some times I feel guilty when I take the time to do it. I need to look at it as a necessary appointment with myself and tune out all the other chores that pull me away. I need to set aside one night a week to not go on the computer (where I become a yarn voyeur) and simply sit and knit. I think Wednesdays will do.

#8: Release one more UFO:

I did do this in 2006. Ava went from being one sleeve and a pile of dreams to a completed cardigan. I'm liking Rheingold by Jade Starmore or Winter Flower by Kim Hargreaves as possible contenders for the next UFO resurrection. Here are the sleeves and here's what Winter Flower would look like. I have tried on a sample of it and it's beautiful!
Well, there you have it. My personal knitting resolutions for 2007. You'll notice I didn't say anything about knitting from my stash or not buying yarn...I fear public humiliation *when* I break those resolutions so, I'll pass. I do intend to de stash a bit by selling off those things I no longer want to make. The problem with that approach is that apparently, I never met a project I didn't like.
By the way, I recommend ringing in the New Year with Peller Estate Founder's Series Ice Cuvee. It's a sparkling wine with a dosage of Ice Wine - delicious and perhaps part of why I have such fond memories of the Fetching mittens!