Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Nothing screams of a passionate pairing more than a mash up of names. It worked for Brangelina and Bennifer - it works for my latest project too. For me, the design is usually the artistic feature of a project with the yarn playing a supporting role. Now that I'm making Roam out of Lisa Souza Baby Alpaca Silk, it's a magical mixture of a great design paired with artisan handpainted yarn.

I felt this colourway would be close to the Big Sea Silk used in the original design as it appeared in the pictures on Knitty. When I ordered it, I told Lisa what I was making. She e mailed me to confirm that my skeins were "extra chocolaty". The colours move from cognac to smoke and deep chocolate. There are smudges of cobalt highlights that really make the yarn unique. The seed stitch is perfect for this type of handpainted yarn to move the colour around a bit more and avoid any pooling...of course, that's not an issue with Lisa's yarn. This is a perfect sub for Roam since it's bang on gauge and the alpaca and silk drape beautifully. The shaping is nicely built into the ridge of slip stitches which will become the icord embellishment.

I do knit continental but still purled english style so I decided to learn how to purl continental as well. I found some great videos on youtube that were very helpful. I highly recommend this method to anyone wanting to try seed stitch.

I'm especially excited to be taking a dyeing class at Lettuce Knit tomorrow with Laura Chau who designed Roam. I'll get to see Roam in person since the sample will be at the store.

There's a new Norah Gaughan design I'm smitten with too in the new Knitter's Book of Yarn. It's called the Cable Swing Cardi. This one may be even better suited to my Malabrigo than the Tilted Duster. Those lovely cables and seed stitch will add a bit more texture to the Malabrigo handpaints.

I'm going to have to find more knitting techniques designed to speed up my knitting! Or - I could just spend less time on Ravelry!


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Red Romance
I have officially completed the first arm of Autumn Rose. Apparently, going back to the yoga mat recently after a 3 month break was a good idea because if my gauge on this puppy is any indication - I'm one stressed cat.

Prescribed gauge is 30 stitches to 4 inches on 3mm needles. I often use sleeves as a gauge swatch - in this case, I didn't bother checking it until the sleeve was done and I got 32 stitches to 4 inches. Now given that the entire sleeve is only 96 stitches by the end of all of the increases, we're probably talking about a quarter of an inch smaller in the end. I have already steamed it a bit and have been able to get it to where it needs to be. It does tell me however that I need to use my 3.25mm needles to get gauge. I also have taken Vanessa's advice to heart and started to split splice the colour changes. It works quite well. You simply do the splice about 2 inches from the end and the colour transition is quite natural. Look ma - no ends to weave in! I'm still quite enamoured of the reds and golds. It's perhaps why I'm also attracted to this design from Annie Modesitt's new book called Romantic Hand Knits.

This is called Dark Victory and uses Malabrigo in a deep burgundy colourway. I found the exact number of burgundy Malabrigo skeins at my LYS (sadly it's closing next month) for 50% off. There was much spirited discussion in the shop as to what accent shades I should use but in the end I really liked the way the gold sparked the design in the sample for the book. I bought a skein of pearl and one of sunset for the accent. The centre panel is done in slip stitch whilst the rest of the sweater is ribbed for a close fit.

I highly recommend this book. The skirt on the front gives new meaning to the phrase "Va Voom". I'm sure we're all shying away from this one because we don't like our cabooses enough to give it a whirl but there are a few people making this and I'm eager to see how it looks on real women. It may surprise us.

This little sweater is very feminine too and looks like a fun knit. I wonder if the shoulders would be fiddly and slide down your arm?

I think these stockings are so "Petticoat Junction". I doubt I'd ever make them - basically because I've decided I'm just not hard wired to like making socks but I think they're really cool.

There are a couple of awesome hat patterns, an Egyptian-inspired dress that's stunning and long black gloves perfect to accent a fabulous party dress at your company Christmas party.

I'm attracted to different designs each time I look at this book which is generally what I consider to be a good sign. Two thumbs up for this one.

Since I'm in a red and gold phase - perhaps I need to dig this one out of the stash in 2008 and see if my skills are finally ready to tackle it.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Master Blends

I do believe that wine is the perfect metaphor for yarn. Of course, I also believe that linoleum is the perfect metaphor for yarn but I digress. My business trip to the Okanagan Wine Festival was wonderful. The highlight was touring the Sandhill vineyards which reside on a mountainside in what's officially a desert. The grapes have to dig down deep to get water and there's a bear that wanders down from the mountain to nosh on the grapes. This must be the bear equivalent of a Casino buffet.

The company I work for makes Sandhill wines. Head winemaker Howard Soon took us into the vineyard to taste the grapes for ourselves right off of the vine. He taught us what to look for in a grape that's ready to be harvested.

Sandhill is an interesting wine brand because it's all about the blend. Howard insists that although each of the Sandhill wines is a blend of grape varietals - they all must come from a single vineyard. This is a bold position to take because there's no blending of other wines to compensate for a rogue frost or less than stellar growing season. The wine drinker truly gets a sense of the terroir in every sip. The blend is the magic that pulls it all together.

For those of us who love artisan yarn (and if you're reading blogs about knitting I'm going to assume you're past the 99 cent per ball acrylic stage)- nothing makes a yarn sing more than a beautiful blend of colours. There are two "new to me" yarns that I've discovered that really qualify for artisan status.

First up is the new Noro offering called Cashmere Island. This is a blend of 60% wool, 30% cashmere and 10% nylon. It knits to a dk weight. I am often attracted to the designs that Jane Ellison creates for Noro and this cardigan on the cover of the new Noro book caught my eye right away. It's called Manhattan. Of course, I needed something straightforward to knit on the plane to B.C and this fit the bill. The edges are ruffled and smaller needles are used to cinch in the waist with a ribbed belt that extends out. I choose the same

colourway used in the book and if you've ever gazed at a ridge of trees in the fall and wished you could capture the colours in a yarn - this is it. Shades of chocolate, plum, sage meld together like magic.

When I'm not feeling up the Cashmere Island I can't stop touching the Baby Alpaca Silk I just got from Lisa Souza. I ordered this to make Roam from Knitty by Laura Chau of Cosmicpluto Knits. She used Great Big Sea Silk in her sample and though I love Hand Maiden - it was a tad spendy for me. Lisa Souza is my "go to gal" for amazing substitutions. This is a blend of Alpaca and Silk that will drape beautifully and the mahogany colourway will hopefully mimic the bronzes, chocolates and blues in Laura's version. I'm eager to have a nice easy sweater to throw on with jeans. Roam fits the bill.

So what wine do we pour to salute those fiber artists who turn yarn into a work of art? Why Sandhill One of course. This wine stole my heart because it's a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec with aromas of spice and red berries. On the palate, there is a generous dollop of sweet fruit - black cherries, red plums and of course like my new yarns ...notes of chocolate.