Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Winter of 42

When August arrives I always know it's time to make peach jam, start nagging the kids about studying harder this year and anticipate the new Rowan magazine. Like many of you, I start counting how many more sleeps until the new Rowan comes out usually immediately after the previous Rowan comes out. I'll admit that some Rowan magazines are my firm favourites and others not so much.

As a marketer, I spend a big chunk of every work day "judging creative". It's important that I take myself out of the equation as much as possible when I'm looking at layouts and campaigns so everything doesn't become the "world according to moi". Please talk amongst yourselves for a moment while I linger over that concept....ok, I'm back.

I must naturally go into my marketing mindset when I go through a new Rowan magazine for the first time because I'm not thinking at all about what I want to knit or wear. I know that Rowan is a business and I'm always fascinated to see how they present a collection which must appeal to people from many different cultures, ages, body shapes and knitting abilities. It must be a tall order. Therefore, I don't expect to love everything and if I see three designs that I'm attracted to, I consider it a good issue.

R42 for me is a very good issue. I would however also consider this one to be a polarizing collection. There seems to be very little neutral feedback and quite a few declarations of "love it" or "blech". The kiss of death for any creative endeavour is indifference so, at least the consensus seems to be they made a statement.

With that long-winded intro. out of the way, may I present a few of my favourite things from R42?


This fairisle sweater took my breath away. I sat in Julie's store a few weeks ago and put the colours together just to get the effect in person. The thought of wool cotton and kid silk haze next to my skin is enough to make me swoon. Yes, the sleeves are a bit puffy (and the critics say too eighties) but they remind me of a simpler time in my life. Hell, they remind me of a thinner time in my life. I'll take one to go!

Fyne Vest:

Yes, fairisle knitting is back in fashion mainstream. Some of us will click our tongues and say it never went out but that's just for us hard-core groupies. If you think of a knitting book before a town when someone says Stillwater, consider yourself hard core. I love this vest. It's felted tweed. I love felted tweed. This one followed me home and I will wear a deep purple cotton tailored shirt under it. Screw this back and forth stuff. This baby is being made in the round.

I was so happy that Sharon Miller didn't trot out another KSH shawl (and if you know what KSH is simply by its letters - you're hard core). This is stunning I would love to curl up under it in front of a fire on a winter's eve with a good book and a glass of silky Merlot. The fact I've not broken down and ordered this stuff yet should get me some brownie points...yeah, that's the ticket...Merlot and brownies to dine on whilst I'm wrapped in that shawl.

Earth Stripe Stole:

Speaking of Kid Silk Haze, this scarf quite frankly deserves to be on the cover. Leave it to Kaffe to make a striped scarf something decadent. The colours are held together (I believe) two at a time and swapped in and out to make the shading effect. Come on guys! If we all pool our KSH stashes together we must be able to kit this puppy up for a song. Count me in for 3 balls of Trance.

Speaking of more Kid Silk Haze, I shall boldly declare my admiration for this window treatment. Quite frankly, any KSH shawl I make will venture out of the closet maybe twice per year. A KSH window treatment is simply a shawl for the window and I would get to see it FIRST thing every morning as I walk past it. My window is much smaller so it would be a very simple project. I've got 3 balls of the pearl colour in stash...hmmmm.


My stashed Irish Cream 4 ply soft may wake up as this design one day. The photography is way too dark but I love the short row shaping. It gives it such a flattering Art Deco feel. It also calls for KSH. Maybe I can use the left overs from the Kaffe scarf for this? Double play baby. I do love how it looks in different colours on the staff members featured in the book.


This cropped Aran uses the new Cocoon yarn. I have a ball that I got from Julie. I can't stop petting it. Imagine stroking a shiny, soft black cat. That's the closest thing I can think of to describe it. Very rustic and handspun-like. Yes, the styling is a tad "Heidi of the Alps" but hey, a fast knit like this clearly leaves much time for enjoying nature. This isn't the best picture. Heidi's looking a bit like a desperate chalet wife.

I'm including this one as an honourable mention. I love the pattern across the body it seems like leaves are dancing and it uses Cocoon again. Again, the whole bat-winged sleeve treatment is not new for some of us but I hope someone does make this because I bet it would look quite nice. Clearly, this one is targeting the younger knitter. Remember folks - this is new to them. They don't have our baggage.

So ends another fall Rowan. I will be fascinated to see the designs translated by real knitters over the next year or so. Love it or hate it, you have to admit Rowan hasn't faded into the background.

On a closing note, I just looked last night and realized today is my first blogging anniversary. If you've just started reading this blog, welcome! If you've been reading from the very first one ...thanks Dad!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Going Coastal

Last week they boys and I made our yearly pilgrimage to visit my father and his wife on Vancouver Island. I look forward to this week every year as it's full of sunny (yet not humid) days and cool nights with open windows and the ocean air blowing into your bedroom. This is a picture of my father and me on the balcony outside of the kitchen. Nice view to eat breakfast by isn't it? To make sure I meet my quota of knitting content here - I'm wearing "Air by Kim Hargreaves" from the Calmer Collection. It's knit in Calmer - shade Chiffon. I asked dad why he didn't smile in pictures and he replied that "that would cost extra".

I was especially excited about this trip because dad had located an Alpaca farm about five minutes from his house and we booked an appointment to go and see them. I also purchased some Alpaca roving in beautiful shades of gray and a rosy-brown. For some reason they remind me of Tauntauns from Star Wars.

My Kromski is portable but is a full sized wheel so it's not something to travel with. Don't think I didn't consider it though. In the end, I brought my favourite Tom Forrester spindle and spent a luxurious few hours spindle spinning in dad's back yarn. I even did some plying on the spindle. Thanks Adrianne for pointing out the excellent Spin Off article from the summer 2007 issue on how to ply on a spindle. I also did some carding which allowed me to experiment with blending fibres. I took some wool/alpaca/mohair roving that I'd dyed at spinning guild in lovely teals and blue-greens and carded it with some emerald green Romney that had touches of Angelina. The result was just what I had hoped for and I had a blast spinning my creation.

Just to prove that I can play with the boys - I joined the guys on a charter to fish for salmon on the ocean. We caught several pink salmon and dad landed a twenty pound spring salmon. There's nothing better than feasting on freshly caught salmon (which we did that very evening). A nice B.C. Pinot Noir is the perfect pairing (IMHO). We saw an eagle swoop down and catch a salmon right near our boat. He then perched on a rock and had a feast for us to see. What a majestic bird! Back at the dock, my son spotted this handsome harbour seal waiting for a handout from the fishermen. There were quite a few of them hovering around waiting for their bounty (like knitters at a Kid Silk Haze sale).

My tendency to take at least five knitting projects with me worked in my favour for once in my life. I managed to leave the instructions at home for two of the projects. I was especially excited to work on my new Autumn Rose sweater. Anne from She Ewe Knits turned cart-wheels to get the yarn and book to me before the big trip. Imagine my disgust with myself when I started the sleeve and reached for the Shetland Black...only to discover I'd left that one shade at home. By the way - none of the knitting stores on Vancouver Island have received the "Fair isle Knitting is back in vogue" memo so there was no Shetland 2 ply to be had. I'll be posting about this project later on this week. It's an amazing design but I fear that the instructions as compared to the picture are wonky so, I think there may be some errata.

So...that left my monsoon sock from the February Socks that Rock Club shipment and the Tulip baby sweater. I'd been stalled on the sock for a while because the 5 x 5 cables called for on the pattern weren't resonating with me. Some things just feel like over- kill and big cables like that on small needles, delicate yarn and a small item like a sock fall into this category. I took this shot for posterity and ripped back. I am continuing with the rib pattern and placing a similar yet smaller cable up each side of the sock as directed in the Cable Rib sock pattern from Interweave's Favourite Socks book.

The Tulip baby sweater is a delight to knit and I see why they're addictive. In this rendition, the light peachy-pink shade has been swapped out for the Wisterous (lilac) shade. I wasn't sure how this would look at first but I quite like it now that the other colours are being added.

I did also haunt 3 yarn stores on the Island but was fairly restrained. I only bought some patterns, needles and a couple of "one off" balls of yarn. We arrived home safe and sound last night and tomorrow it's back to work. Even arriving home to a dead fridge didn't damper my spirits. It was a great trip and I feel as though I truly relaxed and found a bit of myself again. The perfect vacation!

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Zen and the Art of Finishing

I took a seminar from Louisa Harding once and she told me she couldn't figure out how knitters could knit all the pieces to a garment and then never finish it. I understand why they do it. Because knitting is a leap of faith and as long as it's not sewn together - you can live in a dream world where the finished result will live up to your expectations. I tend to take my time with finishing and do a bit each night to make sure it's done properly. Last night I finally wove in the last end of my Bonsai Tunic and took a deep breath and tried it on.

I'm very happy with it.

I recruited my husband and son to take some shots this evening so here are the various angles to try and show the lovely stitch pattern. The gory details are as follows:

Pattern: Bonsai Tunic Interweave Knits Spring 2007
Designer: Norah Gaughan (my hero)
Yarn: Berroco Bonsai 97% bamboo and 3% nylon
Yardage: 77 yards to 50g (this is heavy stuff)
Colour: Shade#4149 Satsuki Green
Size: 34" bust (this is drapey yarn and it stretched about 2")
Used: 8 skeins (calls for 9)
I had to rip out the first attempt after getting all the way to the waist because it was draping too much and would have been too big.

The pattern is well written and the construction is really cool. I was completely engaged through the whole project and never had that "are we there yet?" feeling. This was my first completed Norah Gaughan and it won't be my last. I'll be wearing it to work tomorrow!