Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Pembroke Scarf

When is a design free? When it's barely a pattern. My Pembroke Scarf is up on Ravelry this afternoon, and apart from thirty minutes (at most) of experimenting to get the selvedges just right, and fifteen minutes playing around to find the best way to make the two tips of the scarf symmetrically rounded (not sure why, when it's an ASYMMETRICAL triangle), the only effort involved was in the actual knitting. Even then, it wasn't exactly EFFORT, since there were only two rows, repeated ad nauseum infinitum. However, that's what makes this scarf perfect for "social" knitting -- you know, the type of knitting you do with friends when you actually want to have a conversation. Pembroke is also perfect in two other ways: it makes an incredibly useful wardrobe piece, and it uses up lone skeins of luxury fibre that are sitting in your stash. I'm already thinking about a linen version for spring and I have another on the needles in hand-dyed merino for when I'm watching Netflix.

To download, go here.

Friday, February 2, 2018

February Sale

It's February, the cruellest (at least in my opinion) month of the year. So, in case you're looking for a quick, soft, fun knit with almost NO FINISHING, Glenora is on sale for $2 for this month.


And yes, that's the marvelously talented Cheryl Toy modelling in the first two photos with such exhuberance. Thanks, Cheryl. To purchase, click here.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Passing of the Blog

Did you see this weekend's article in The Washington Post, "How the Mom Internet became a sponsored, spotless void"? The article's focus is on how "gritty blogs have given way to staged Instagram photos". The author, Sarah Pulliam Bailey, is writing about parenting blogs, but she could have been writing about knitting blogs, or maybe blogs in general, because the trend is obvious. You may have noticed that my own blogging has been dwindling in frequency. Good blogs are more than just collections of photos. They are mini-essays. Essay writing takes time and effort, which could be spent on doing the actual thing one is blogging about in the first place. Kate Davies is a good example of a knit designer who blogs less now that she is running a wildly successful knitting design and yarn business. While I always enjoy her thoughtful and well-researched posts, I have to admit that I derived more pleasure from her earlier, seemingly more spontaneous style. I still look forward to the Yarn Harlot's thoughts on knitting and life, but even she posts at most once a week and frequently less nowadays (admittedly she has sustained a stressful year). And it should be noted that the Harlot is a perfect example of a blogger who very successfully walks the difficult line between her public and private life.
Today, some of the most successful blogs have a completely different character from blogs of five years ago. Take Karen Templer's Fringe Association, which is published early in the morning every weekday. It's an example of the new, "influencer" style of blogging, full of highly "curated" (such an overused word!) photos and links to other websites on the subjects of knitting and handmade, sustainable clothing. Make no mistake; I find Fringe Association an incredibly useful resource. It keeps me up to date with all the latest trends. But blogs like it, albeit useful and beautiful, have a certain sanitized feel. They don't offer up the little slice of real life that was present in earlier blog writing. That personal connection to the writer was what brought me to blog reading in the first place. As to why I started writing my own blog, it was more or less required by the first magazine publisher interested in my work.
So, where is my own blog headed? It's hanging around, although I've definitely jumped on the Instagram bandwagon. Instagram is so simple. Just pick up your phone, click a photo, post it, and almost instantly you have customers looking up your Ravelry shop. Social media are constantly changing the marketplace. Ten years ago, the way to get noticed was to publish with an online magazine. Then, Ravelry became the way to go (and it still is a critical marketing tool). But now it's Instagram's moment in the sun. Who knows what's next.
In the meantime, expect to continue to see less frequent blog posts here. I plan to reserve the blog for important announcements, detailed explanations of technique, and anything else that I think needs putting into words, as opposed to pictures. Not that I don't love good blog photos. Here are a few from the past month.

Bellevue House, down the street from my place.

Close-up of the "tower" at Bellevue House.

The Tett Centre (left) and the Isabel Bader Centre for the Performing Arts (right) with ice fog on Lake Ontario.

Modelling an unpublished design.
Launching into a new design, with inspiration from snips in my notebook from "Egg Clothing".

Pale hues intended for a couple of new cowls.
So, even if you don't see a lot of blog action, there's a lot going on. Click on the link in the sidebar to my Instagram account to stay abreast of developments. How many weeks (months) to spring?
P.S. I am frequently asked about Facebook. FYI, I do not have a Facebook account. Maybe I'm the only person left on the planet without one, but there you are.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Zora Re-Issued

Remember Zora?

This is a cardigan I wear again and again. It's flattering, looks great with jeans or my handsewn clothes, and works from fall through spring. The grey version, above, was my first wheel-spun wool project. The original blue version was knitted in a yarn that is no longer available, and I've been meaning to update it for a while. At the same time, I want to do more to use and promote sustainable wools. So, I'm happy to announce that Zora has now been re-published on Ravelry for knitting with Topsy Farms Pure Sheep Wool 2-ply. You can read more about Topsy and my trip to Amherst Island last spring here. I'll be knitting a new Zora for myself shortly, probably in their soft black. (Am I crazy to knit an aran pattern in such a dark colour?) You can order Topsy wool here. Note that my yardage recommendations are generous. However, I don't think you'll have difficulty finding something to do with any leftovers.
The Ravelry link is here. Take time to check out the project pages. You'll notice that some knitters have chosen to interweave the cables while others didn't bother to mirror the cables as written. There's lots of room for choice.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

A Study in Lifted Increases

In the same vein as my last post ("When Simpler is Better"), here is my new sweater, designed specifically to go with Sonya Philip's Dress #1. I've made three of the latter and now that winter is upon us, I'm more or less living in those dresses in combination with leggings and various sweaters. Glenora and Audrey's Coat have been my mainstays, but I've really wanted something else, something with as much swing in the body as the dress. That's where this new sweater comes in.

Yes, originally I thought I wanted it to have a cowl neck and inset pockets, but as it grew on the needles, I realized that a cowl would turn the sweater into a piece that could only be worn in the depth of winter. Without the cowl it can be worn in late fall and early spring as a tunic length covering for Dress#1 and also Pants #1. After all, you can always add a scarf for extra warmth and colour in the neck region.
Also, as this top-down sweater grew, I realized that I loved its clean lines, emphasized by the use of lifted increases, both in the yoke,

and down the sides. One of the nice aspects of circular design is that one is not limited to increasing on just even or odd rows. In this case, I was able to increase every THIRD round to get just the right angle. The full extent of the increases is shown below. Yes, it's huge!

This looks crazily wide, until you realize that the fabric is quite drapey. I knitted the light teal Eco+ at 3 1/2 stitches to the inch on 6.5mm needles. If you go back and look at the top photo, you can see that the sweater hangs quite gracefully, with the sides a little longer than the back and front. The fact that the neck is fairly low means that no short row shaping was required at the back, making this sweater really, really simple.
Well, perhaps not completely simple. The lower hem and cuffs were completed with a straightforward purlwise bind off. Since I wanted the neck to have the same finish, I undid the longtail cast on and, using the long strand that was left, worked Elizabeth Zimmermann's "sewn casting off" from p38 of the newer edition of "Knitting Workshop". I will write the pattern so that there is the option of starting with a provisional cast on. The reason I chose the sewn cast off was that although it looks like a regular purlwise bind off, it is very, very stretchy, and that degree of stretch is needed for the yoke to hang properly.
Keep in mind that this design is meant to be something of a blank slate. I can see it in Noro-like stripes or in a soft mohair, or perhaps in a gradient. Hmm...
In the meantime, it fits into my wardrobe plan perfectly. See how well it coordinates with my Yule Tam from last winter? (That's the tam in the lower right of the photo.)

Not sure when this will be published, but at least I've got something new to wear. Minus 9C predicted for tomorrow.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

When Simpler is Better

We've arrived at that time of the knitting calendar when we knitters think about gifts, preferably quick gifts. It's an opportunity (and an excuse) to make those simple but beautiful little accessories that can be so useful. So often we forget that "beautiful" does not equate with "complicated". Remember that designs that are published in magazines are most often there because there is something striking or unusual about them--that's what appeals to publishers who are trying to catch the readers' eyes. However, designs that originate from yarn shops and yarn companies are actually more likely to fit the "simple and beautiful" category. They are likely to feature lovely or luxury yarns and, indeed, that is a big part of what makes these simple patterns work. Here are a few suggestions from what's out there right now, along with a few of my own patterns that fit this category.

1. Brooklyn Tweed's Patch: the garter stitch scarf elevated to a work of art. At US$95 for a kit, this may be too pricey for a lot of Canadian knitters, but it has to be tempting for a piece that will offer up a lot of knitting time and a scarf that will last a lifetime.

2. Churchmouse Yarn's new toque: the perfect little hat to keep handy in your pocket.

3. Purl Soho's Mistake Rib Cowl: soothing to knit and to wear in a luxury fibre.

4. My own Fibonacci Neckerchief: just the thing to use up a skein of merino hand-dyed sock yarn. I practically live in mine.

5. My Tumnus scarf. Reversible and unisex, I love it in Ultra Alpaca (available locally at Rosehaven Yarns in Picton).

6. Bibliogloves. Layer these over regular gloves for extra warmth. Shown here in Brooklyn Tweed's Loft.

7. I've just published an updated Yule Tam and Toque: great for a first fairisle project, especially the toque version, which has no shaping at all. And who doesn't love to make pompons?

8. Finally, there's the good ole Neck Thingum: boring as can be to knit, but we have been known to fight over these when winter does its worst. Settle in with a good audiobook and some soft wool and someone will be grateful.

Best of all, most of these patterns are FREE. Happy holiday knitting!

Friday, November 17, 2017

In the Works

Recently someone asked me about my design process. Do I plan everything out in advance, or do I launch right into the knitting? The answer is somewhere in between. I like to start with a sketch, inexpert artist that I am. My current project started with this a couple of days ago.                                            


I did a little experimenting with a small stitch pattern built into the yoke increases and then, because I'm working in a yarn I'm familiar with and know my gauge, I simply cast on. I played around a little with some short row shaping at the base of the collar, but then after trying it on, decided to nix it. I want everything simple.
Next, I plotted out the yoke shaping and did the calculations. You can catch a glimpse of those at the side of my sketch. I like to work in notebooks and I try to avoid the temptation to skip writing everything up, even the failures. It's a huge time saver, because sometimes I'll go back to a "fail" and take it in a different direction. That's how Harriet's Jacket was born.
This current pullover has been in my mind for a while, but it took the weekend away, talking to other knitters and designers, to get it going. On Monday, I took a good look around my work space,

and felt re-energized. Are you noticing more colour in my work?

 This is my teal triple whammy. Everything made by me!