Monday, May 28, 2007

Micro Managing

Knitting for children is quite the crap shoot. You may over shoot or under shoot the size or the child may grow out of it after the first wearing. It was actually a couple of hand knit baby Icelandic sweaters with matching caps that a family friend made for my identical twin boys when they were small that gave me the push to start knitting for my kids. Why mess around? If you're going to make your kids a sweater - make it a Starmore! Since I wasn't bright enough to get pictures of the boys wearing their Starmore Fair isles when they were small, I made them pose earlier tonight.

Meet Butch and Sundance.

Butch (right) is holding the first Starmore I ever made. It's called Sqaredance from Alice Starmore's book Stillwater. When the sweater was done - I couldn't believe how great it had turned out. He looked so cute in it (you'll have to take my word for it). That's the magic of a Starmore pattern. Just do what she says and you'll be fine.

Sundance (to the left) is holding a pullover version of Reef from the Starmore book "In the Hebrides". The original pattern was for a cardigan made for a much smaller child. I wanted something to fit a 9 or 10 year old so, I found a pullover pattern from the Starmore book "Celtic Collection" in the size I wanted to use as a schematic. Then, I simply dropped the pattern onto the schematic and followed the instructions for the pullover. Once again, the results made the small needles and fine yarn all worth while. I've made three other Starmore designs since then but nothing else for the boys. They're growing too fast these days and seem to have a propensity to lose things. A $90 pair of Nike runners gives me heart burn. Losing a hand knit Starmore design would make me commit Seppuku.

I'm probably reminiscing about kiddie knits so much because I'm going to be an auntie again at the end of October. There are so many great baby designs and this one, I had to have. It's the baby cardigan by Dream in Color yarns. I've ordered the kit from Lettuce Knit in Toronto. The Yarn Harlot is making one and this is one stunning little item. It's not a Starmore - those I reserve for children and probably someday grand kids.

I tell myself that I'm just being a good Aunt but let's be honest here; I just want to make the damn sweater. The fact that there happens to be a baby on the way is just a convenient bonus to make it look respectable. Will I stoop to anything to enhance my stash?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Testing one, two, three

I've come to truly appreciate the power of the swatch. I used to see swatching as the activity that came between me and finally diving in to a new project. Now, I see them as a sort of prelude or "fibre first date". Finishing a swatch is a bit of a milestone and if all the stars are in alignment, important clues to ensure a successful knitting project are there for the plucking.

I'm thinking that the Indigo Ripples skirt will be the perfect "take-along" vacation knitting. We're planning a road trip to Quebec to see my MIL at the end of June and it's 10 hours by car. Kat Coyle, the designer of this garment has a way with pretty skirts for sure. Her lovely skirt shown in Greetings from the Knit Cafe is stunning. Julia from Mind of Winter has made a lovely version of it. Kat Coyle has also designed the skirt in Lace Style. It didn't catch my eye at first but after seeing a denim version of it here, I realized the skirt was suffering from lousy styling. Honestly, that poor model should get hazard pay for having to wear two layers of mis-matched underpinnings tucked into a knit skirt!

My LYS is unfortunately going out of business because the owners are retiring up North. The good news is...everything is 40% off. I picked up some Twilley's Freedom Denim in the darkest blue for a song - a song I say! I'm told many of these denims are made at the same factory - I've never worked with denim before so, this is my first brand to handle. I'm planning to use Eunny's trick of using a slightly smaller needle to get a fabric that won't sag. I swatched on 3.5mm and got about a 20.5 stitch gauge pre washing and post blocking. I was a bit concerned by some twizzling of the yarn I noted while knitting. I was afraid the fabric might bias but once washed and pressed, all seems to be nice and square. My swatch shrunk the requisite 20% in length and down to 22 stitches per 4 inches gauge. I will also lengthen this skirt so the ruffles begin about 2 - 3 inches above the knee cap instead of mid thigh.

I'm also working on Maritime which is a very straight forward knit perfect for taking along. I love the indigo and white together - so summery! I often use sleeves as swatches if I'm using a straight forward yarn such as the Cotton Glace used here. I also adore the colour striping on the cuff - here's a close up of what can't be seen in Rowan 41.

I've also completed the back to the Bonsai tunic. Now onto the front and hopefully this will be an FO before long. My swatch for this one was a big fat liar but it worked out in the end.

Swatches and I have at last come to a place of mutual respect. This last exercise has taught me the importance of washing the swatch as well. I can't promise I'll always follow the "swatching protocol" to the letter but at least now I'll know what I'm missing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Influential People

This past mother's day, I thought a lot about the people responsible for "leading" us to knitting. They aren't necessarily the same people who taught us how to make the stitches themselves. My paternal grandmother taught me to knit and purl when I was seven. I never continued to make things after that first sad garter stitch square. My mother sewed but I like to believe she understood how therapeutic it is to create something. When I was in 4th year University I came home during February mid term exams. Sick with a wicked cold and sleep-deprived from studying - I had a bad case of the February blahs. "You need a project" my mother announced and we visited our local craft store on the way home. Our mission- to pick up a project to save my mortal soul from the depths of melancholy. I found some beautiful yarn and a pattern that caught my eye. It was an intarsia mohair sweater. Gee, there's a great project for someone who's only knit a Lopi Icelandic sweater before! It was 1985 and sweaters were baggy and images were geometric. I still have a few of the balls left over, the brand name is Georges Picaud Tricheuse and I remember the project cost about $78 - a huge expense. Mom paid for it without commenting on my usual champagne tastes (some things never change). I cast on and picked away at the project over the course of my final year. Thursdays were for Knot's Landing and knitting! My room mates often asked if they were going to get to see it finished before we all graduated. Not a chance.

I worked on this sweater off and on over the next 10 years. I'd think about the project when I came across it from time to time but never picked it up again. During this time, my mother became ill and our last summer together we went to a cottage in Northern Ontario. The weather was incredibly horrid forcing us to stay inside and read those ancient Reader's Digest issues that seem to be a standard feature of every cottage. An article entitled "Mr. Knitting" caught my eye and for the first time I got to see some of Kaffe Fasset's designs. I was smitten.

When I got the call the following March that it was time to fly to Vancouver Island and be with my mother, I impulsively reached for the mohair sweater. Long hours sitting vigil in a quiet house and then a quiet hospital room were spent picking up where I'd left off ten years prior. The nurses would come in to check on mom and take a look at my work. It was a welcome "normal" conversation in the midst of craziness. After the funeral, I kept at the knitting until finally, it was done. I've never stopped casting on since. My assembly is very primitive (it's still not my forte) but it fits and it's an FO. I've never really worn it. Mostly because fashions have changed and this feels so "eighties". I'll never part with it though because it was such a key part of delivering me to this hobby ( no), pastime, (not quite), obsession (yes) called knitting. I'll also never part with it because there's a bit of my mom in every stitch.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Round Up

My creative energies are quite scattered right now. I jump from project to project, swatching here and there for good measure. I thought it would be appropriate for this post to provide a "snapshot" of the various creative impulses cavorting in my head. Some are currently manifesting and some will never be more than a gleam in my eye. Others...I'm holding up a clove of garlic and a crucifix weaving.

I belong to our local spinning guild or should I say "Handweavers and Spinners Guild". These spinners are really weavers in disguise - they spin to get stuff to weave. I'm "the knitter", really - they actually point at me and whisper "That's the knitter" in hushed tones. At guild meetings they usually have an activity, one that involves weaving. I have no desire to weave. No time and no extra 800 square foot room to house the big honkin loom that comes with this hobby. When they try to get me to weave at meetings I usually hiss"I don't weave! I knit." It's somewhat ironic that last guild meeting I won these handwoven tea towels in the raffle they have every meeting. They were woven by the guild "weaving maven". No siree Bob..not for me. They are pretty though, aren't they? I think the raffle was rigged to suck me in.

Speaking of spinning, the Ontario Handspinning Seminar comes to our local university this weekend. I'll be taking a seminar with Harriet Boone with whom I had the pleasure of taking a seminar from last year. She rocks and the topic will be "tender toes - spinning sock yarn". I'll report in after the weekend.

Speaking of socks - I'm chugging away at my Monsoon sock from the Feb. Rockin Sock Club shipment. Those ribs up the foot don't go so fast but I'm very pleased that I'm getting some cool stripes. I can't wait to get to the cabled part. The new STR shipment arrived a few weeks ago with the new "Silkie" sock yarn. It's 81% superwash merino and 19% silk. The silk takes the dye a bit differently so, there's a cool Barber pole effect. This stuff is heaven and I can't wait to make the pattern that came with it which is a lace sock with a seam up the back. I ordered a second skein to do the knee high version.

My Bonsai Tunic had to be ripped back again. One of my "fan" sections had one too many stitches and the mistake wasn't caught until I'd knitted about 6 inches of incorrect stitch count. I was just about to give up but decided to keep at it. I'm at the waist ribbing and I'm loving this project.

Speaking of great Interweave Knits designs - my Summer 07 issue of IK arrived this week. I have them sent to me from Gemini Fibers and if you live in Ontario, I highly recommend this method. Cheryl just charges your card as the new issues come in and sends it to you. I get mine weeks before they show up in the stores. I really love this issue (as I did the Spring issue) and the designs that I'm attracted to include the Bella Blouse which I conveniently have the exact yarn in stash. Aqua shades of Berroco Cotton Twist and Touche.

I also really love the Origami Cardigan. What clever construction! Of course these are both Norah Gaughan designs. I think she'll be the new patron saint of this blog.

Oh, and the Oriel Blouse by Shirley Padon is wonderful! Has anyone knitted with Alchemy Silken Straw?

Speaking of the Spring Interweave Knits issue, I'm taking a second look at that lovely Indigo Ripples skirt by Kat Coyle. Eunny Jang and Eileen from Ei Knits have both made it in dark denim and lengthened it so it's less "flirty" and more elegant and tulip-like. They are stunning and I have the dark denim in stash to make this. I'm sketching my plan out for this one. I like the way Eunny used a smaller needle to get a tighter gauge which made it more fitted.

All of this jumping around calls for a wine that jumps too. If you're in the Ontario region or know someone who lives here - see if you can get a bottle of Ice Cuvee. It's a sparkling wine with a kiss of ice wine. Absolute heaven!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Carpe Skein!

Last week was one of those weeks where events conspire to remind you just how short life is. If I follow this logic through to it's rightful conclusion then I should have realized I'll never get through my stash and then proceeded to destash. Instead, I did what I always do to remind myself that this is a beautiful world...I buy more yarn.

Last Saturday was the annual Downtown Knit Collective (Toronto Knitter's Guild) Spring Knitter's Frolic. And after getting a surprise bit of mad money - frolic I did.

I was thrilled to see that Lettuce Knit would have a booth there. I was even more thrilled to see the lovely yarn they were selling - a line called Dream in Color. The colours are dyed using a process that causes "veils of colour" almost like a colour wash. You get the interest without the pooling. The deal was sealed when I discovered that they had a shade called "In Vino Veritas". My current mantra is to try and knit with colours out of my usual scope. I've wanted to do more red and this red is a deep garnet with a rich violet wash. Here it is in the lovely Spring sunshine. Laura Chau of Cosmicpluto Knits designed and made the most divine jacket out of this exact yarn and shade. You can see it here - it's worth the trip! I tried the sample on and Steph took a picture of me but my lack of modeling ability coupled with poor lighting doesn't do the jacket justice - Laura's pictures show the stitches and colours perfectly.

I think I'll use my In Vino Veritas to make the beautiful Cabled Down Raglan sweater by Stephanie Japel. This yarn feels nice close to the skin. It's a good stash enhancer!

I also purchased the Belle Shrug pattern also by Laura Chau. It uses Blue Sky Alpaca which I have in stash and had planned to make the Blue Sky Alpaca Silk Shrug. I like Laura's better. The collar is so feminine. You can get this also at Lettuce Knit. Julie had a booth at the show as well and had many of the Blue Sky Alpaca samples on display. It was great to see them up close.

Also from Lettuce Knit I got this great little knitting pouch perfect for hooking over a belt loop or chair arm to hold the yarn while you knit. Some loop it around their wrists and stand or walk while knitting. This is called the Origami bag and I got a lovely vintage pink and red one. Made by Lettuce Knit, they're "sewn from vintage barkcloth, and trimmed with Mokuba twill tape. These little pouches feature an adjustable toggle closure. How they are folded prior to sewing means that they are fully lined and have little pockets on the front and back. A great little project bag for lace or sock knitting". I've used it so much already to knit on the go with simple one or two ball projects. There are pockets in the front too. Here you see the progress on my Socks that Rock Club sock. It's coming...slowly.

At Gemini Fibres I picked up the Harrisville Cashmere and Wool to make the Norah Gaughan Architectural Rib Sweater. It's a fall project but Cheryl at Gemini had just the right shade and it was on sale!

The show was at the Japanese Canadian Cultural Centre in Toronto. How nice to have fresh fruit and sushi at lunch with green tea instead of a ham and cheese sandwich chased down with a soda. It was great to touch base with other knitters and show off our FOs and UFOs. I was almost to the waist ribbing on the Bonsai Tunic when I showed it to Stephannie on Saturday. After finally getting some knitting on the needles, I discovered that my gauge was off and it was 2" larger than the intended size. I sucked it up and ripped back Saturday night. I'm glad I did - it's much better as the smallest size. Boy that hurts though to rip out days worth of work.

I have made some progress on Rheingold. Here's a sunshine shot of it as I head towards the armholes.

So in the end, I my visit to the Knitter's Frolic was as close to a perfect day as I could imagine. Maybe it's not so strange that those of us who knit love yarn so much. After all, it carries with it so many possibilities, dreams and potential. What could be more life-affirming than this?