Friday, July 27, 2007

The Bee's Knees
I'm a self-confessed Joanie come lately to the lace knitting game. I don't have many occasions to wear shawls since I pretty much have a low profile - "living in the slow lane" life style. I am working on Icarus but that's stalled since I find the pattern too boring to be a challenge but not boring enough to be a "take-along" project. I have however joined the Mystery Stole Knit Along and I am enjoying that project. I tend to knit it at night which means once I do two or 3 rows I'm usually feeling pretty tired and we all know that Olympic knitting while tired can lead to strange results (like defecting to the Russian team). Frogging lace is a PITA. My MSK3 experience however did embolden me enough to be receptive to more complicated lace projects and when Vanessa (my knitting sensei) posted her finished Bee Fields Shawl I couldn't get my name on the waiting list fast enough.

The kit arrived yesterday and although it comes in a lovely green shade as well (my usual pick for colour) I just loved the idea of a Bee inspired design made from a colour called "Buckwheat Honey". It simply glows and is quite golden in colour. This is a very soft yarn but no doubt will be a pleasure to handle. I was a bit taken aback by the eighteen page pattern but it looks as though that's to accommodate those who prefer each line to be written out. I'm a chart girl born and bred so pass me the snapshot and turn me loose. I will wait to cast on for this for a bit. I want to book some serious yardage with my MSK shawl first.

On the FO watch is the Bonsai Tunic from spring 2007 IK. The bamboo has blocked perfectly and I then was instructed to "Kitchener stitch" the two neck extensions together and then sew shoulders and attach neck pieces to back. I truly detest grafting so I said "screw it" and did a 3 needle bind off. I do not mind having a small 7 stitch seam and can only surmise this was done to eliminate any ridge rubbing at the top of the neck. I've tried the garment over my head and it won't hit any sensitive spots on me so I'm please to have avoided those gymnastics. I've pinned everything in place and I'm taking my time with this step. A nice finishing job can really make the garment and I'm pleased with how the pieces look so I want the finish to be worthy of the project.

So, if you've ordered the Bee Shawl in the buckwheat honey colourway - I recommend opening a nice buttery chardonnay to pair with it. Some Chardonnay wines have even have lovely honey tones. In fact why not have a bottle from a small winery called Twenty Bees? I think I may just do that!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Devil Wears Mohair

So Vogue Knitting Magazine is turning 25. I sometimes get the impression that this magazine frustrates some knitters who don't see things they can relate to in the pages of each issue. I must admit - the Koigu Cover skirt is the first thing I've ever knitted from Vogue Knitting but my lack of Vogue inspired FOs doesn't reflect the admiration I feel for the magazine. After all, this was the publication that showed the world yes - knitting is worthy of its own magazine. This silver anniversary issue looks to be every bit as wonderful as the 20th anniversary issue was. The 20th Anniversary issue featured an ad by the yarn store Colorful Stitches. This ad displayed a piece of art so funky and perfect for me that when I found out the artist had run a limited number of the prints for sale - I purchased one and had it framed. It sits proudly in my kitchen. Hey - it's a red head knitting. Need I say more?

Vogue really knows how to celebrate a milestone. They've published a book filled with the best of their articles over the last 25 years and it's a keeper. They've also re vamped their website as well and it features a variety of cover shots. Each cover features a silver/grey design created by a well-known designer and the best part is that the patterns are available for free to download. This one by Debbie Bliss has stolen my heart. I have some ivory Blue Faced Leicester by Fleece Artist that may just be perfect for this.

This sweater is also amazing. It's by Veronik Avery and I can't wait to get a close up view of it. I'll have to see if that In Vino Veritas by Dream in Color has enough yardage to make this.

The website seems to be quite well designed and robust and they've introduced a VK podcast. On the Webs podcast, the editor mentioned that this issue will feature an interview with the "old guard" Kaffe, Meg and yes even Alice as well as the "new guard" including the Yarn Harlot, Vicki Howell and Debbie Stoller. Vogue will always be the magazine that helps me see my knitting in a new light. It's there to push the envelope - no apologies. Happy 25th! Well done.

Sound the bell for the FO alert. I'm finished with the knitting on the Bonsai Tunic from the IK Spring 2007 issue. I blocked the back first by placing the piece face down with a wet heavy towel on top. I do this on all designs with a relief pattern to them like lace knitting or cables. This way, the pattern is pushed out the bottom by the weight of the wet towels I put on top rather than being flattened. I wasn't sure how well the bamboo yarn would take the blocking but it's turned out beautifully. The stitch definition is very uniform and the lace shows nicely.

It's hard to believe that the appearance of Vogue Knitting Fall issue and even Rowan 42 for Fall are imminent. It's a sign that August is almost here and summer is nearing the half-way mark. I'm not ready to give up the lazy sunny days of summer yet but I'm always ready to dream about those beautiful fall designs.

Friday, July 13, 2007


I've just been away for a few days on a business trip. Actually, this one falls under the heading "it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it". Our division attended a two day meeting at our Estate wineries. Sunday was the jazz festival in the vineyard. Although it rained, the music was amazing and we lauched the new renovations to our Hillebrand property. This is the new Winemaker's Loft. On the lower level there is an outdoor room complete with fireplace for dining Al Fresco. Just add Johnny Depp and you've got yourself a night to remember! We enjoyed some beautiful sparkling wine - our award-winning Trius Brut and the new Trius Red 2005 vintage was served as well. This will be in short supply because the '05 harvest was small due to weather but oh boy is it amazing!

I've often pondered the similarities between wine making and fibre arts. As we toured our Peller property on Monday our head winemaker spoke about the vineyards and how they're doing (so far so good this year). We also learned about barrel aging. Some of the wine is aged in American Oak and some in French Oak. The nature of the wood imparts different qualities to the wine. American Oak gives the vanilla, buttery toasty tones and the French oak apparently imparts a stronger flavour profile. The barrels themselves are "toasted" and can have a light, medium or dark toasting which will in turn be transferred to the wine. Before I knew much about wine, I would read the labels and wonder if they actually added "tobacco, smoke, chocolate etc" to the wine. I have since learned that these terms are metaphors to help the consumer match the wine to the food. A wine maker will taste the juice and decide what kind of wine they wish to create. A crisp white to be enjoyed with patio foods will be aged in stainless steel while a bold, jammie red to pair with grilled meats needs some barrel-aging.

I find myself following a similar thought process with my spinning. I have been trying to work with different fibres to learn how the breeds and materials behave and translate into yarn. This roving by Pippi Kneesocks was marked simply 100% wool so I'm not sure what breed it was. This colourway was then spun into singles on my Schacht and then Navajo plied into a 3 ply. I decided to try and keep the colour progressions together by doing this. If I'd wanted a barber-pole effect, I would have double plied. The colour is called Strange Days and I highly recommend her roving. It's a dream to spin.

I also tried my hand at spinning some Alpaca. I will be making the Nagano Sakura Scarf from Knitty to enter into the 5 counties display this September. Our theme is Japan. I will not be felting this scarf but rather leaving it knit with the cherry blossoms applied. The pink yarn to make the blossoms is next. I spun this on my Kromski Sonata and it was my first time spinning to gauge. I wanted a worsted to chunky weight so we'll see how this works out. Hopefully I have enough.

In other news, I found my Rowan cotton 4 ply for Maritime. I had taken a gift box that had been designed to look like a leather-bound book and stored the yarn in it and put it back on my book shelf. Note to self: Nothing good comes from any sentence that starts with the phrase "Gee this will be a good hiding place for...".

I'm in the home stretch on Bonsai Tunic. I just have to finish the other side and then block. I hear bamboo really soaks up the water so I'll probably block using wet towels.

I'm also just in the first clue stages of the Mystery Stole pattern. This is shaping up to be a very pretty design. I guess there are a bizillion people who've joined. There may even be some press on USA Today. Hey - whatever promotes the craft!

In choosing a wine to pair with the MSK3 I decided on good old Yellow Tail Shiraz. Dark, delicious and extremely popular! Gee, could all of this wine consumption be partly to blame for misplacing my stash?

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

I Can Knit for Miles and Miles

The prospect of a 9 hour road trip may seem daunting to some people but those of us who knit often look forward to these situations with glee. All of that time on the wide open highway, zooming along with nothing to do but book some major time with your front-burner projects. At least this seemed to be the plan for my recent family trip to Quebec to visit my mother in law. Highway 401 is the only main route connecting the Toronto area to Eastern Canada - specifically Montreal. Our plan was simple: rise early (4:00 am), make it through Toronto by 6:00 am and through Montreal just after lunch arriving in the mid afternoon. The evening before my husband said to me "I have a bad feeling about this trip". He didn't have any feelings of danger, just something wasn't right. Our first set-back occurred when the alarm clock failed to go off and we awoke at 5:00 am. OK, no biggie - we're an hour behind. As we entered Toronto, the news announced that the 401 was "closed from Belleville to Napanea due to a protest". This little glitch forced us onto a two lane highway for the next 3 hours along with about 5,000 of our nearest and dearest friends all fighting their way around the blockade as well. Bumper to bumper, stop and go traffic doesn't bode well for knitting so it wasn't until we got back on track that I actually had a chance to embrace the needles. After landing in Montreal at 3:30 pm (on a Friday afternoon of a long weekend) we staggered into my MIL's house 5 hours late. Here is my MIL with Butch and Sundance and moi.

I took about 50 projects with me which was a good move because at one point or another each one of them pissed me off enough to warrant a time out. Having plan B and C and D and F allowed me to move onto something else. Without further ado, here are my vacation knitting projects and their current state of completion.

I wanted to take Maritime with me since the stockinette, two-colour pattern is perfect for travel knitting but I'll be damned if I can find the rest of the yarn! I've clearly tucked it somewhere but heaven knows where. This really frosted my cookies and I vow tonight to find the rest of that yarn. Send a search party if I don't come back from the yarn closet.

The third Rockin Sock club shipment has arrived and I'm still on the first pattern (Inside Out in shade Monsoon). I'm not a seasoned sock knitter so, things take a bit longer for me. I was so pleased when I turned the heel and started on the leg portion...until I got to the cables. I ripped this baby back about 3 times. The 5 x 5 cross cables are a bit too meaty in my opinion for a sock. I'm not sure how it'll feel on the leg. I'll make these according to the pattern but I'm not totally sold on it yet.

I had a few glitches with the Bonsai tunic. The pattern tells you to decrease for the v-neck every 4 rows a prescribed number of times and then every fourth row one last time or not depending on the size. From there it's every 6 rows. My size dictated that the last 4th row decrease be ignored and from there decrease every 6 rows. What they meant was, pretend you did a decrease but don't... do not pass go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Then, do 6 rows and decrease again (10 rows total). What I read was, dig in to the 6th row decreases after the last completed 4th row decrease. This meant I was running out of side stitches faster than I should have as I did the binding off for the arm hole. After a few hours of scratching my head and looking at the photos in IK (which are quite detailed for this pattern), the light bulb went on. I'm back in the game and even managed to work on the I-cord belt on the trip home. Some knitters who've made Bonsai have left the belt off but I love how it looks.

The Roundabout Leaf Tank is also the perfect low-maintenance traveling project. I got a bit done on this and I'm onto the third front strip after which I begin to decrease. Roundabout and I are still fast friends having had no arguments this trip.

I've also joined the Mystery Stole Knit Along. This is an on line group run by the author of the Pink lemon twist blog. She designs a shawl and posts clues once per week which direct participants to the next piece of the pattern. You don't get to see the finished product until you or someone else has completed the shawl. I love the unknown aspect of this knit along. I find it more exciting to be led with an element of surprise and it doesn't concern me at all that the end product won't be beautiful. This designer turns out great stuff and in my opinion if it's a shawl and lace, it's pretty hard to really screw up so I'm sure I'll love it. The suggested colours are black or white. I'm using black Zephyr silk and wool with #8 beads that are smoky grey with flecks of copper and gold.

I'll leave you with this picture. My MIL is also a knitter. A very different kind of knitter. Her projects are small and very functional. Her claim to fame are these two tone slippers. She churns them out and has an inventory to give to people to wear when they visit, protecting her hard wood floors that gleam. She let us take these with us when we go home. In true Quebec fashion, they are brightly coloured but boy do they wear like iron.

So in the end, I did get some quality time with my projects but it is good to be home. Now, where the hell did I put that Rowan 4 ply cotton for Maritime......