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!

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Old Friends

In my previous post there was a suggestion that I was going to use my ram's head buttons (purchased about 15 years ago from Philosopher's Wool at the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival) on my new coat. I actually intended to do that, and got as far as sewing the first button on. Then I realized that I didn't like the look of a shank button. So, I poked around in my buttonbox until I located exactly six (phew!) old Mission Falls black buttons with crosshatches on top. Mission Falls made the BEST buttons. When the company went out of business, I visited Mags Kandis on a studio open house day in Prince Edward County and bought a big batch of her remaining buttons in different styles. They're always just right.


Then, I donned my new coat and headed out to rake leaves and give the lawn a last mowing. By Friday the daytime high is predicted to be below zero. Winter really is coming.


BTW, these are Sonya Philip's Pants #1 in navy Essex, a linen/cotton blend. Perfect year round.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Wash Day

Yesterday I finally got around to doing something I had vowed to do a long time ago. I got around to posting, on the laundry room wall, instructions for how to wash wool. Why? I'm tired of various family members asking me to talk them through the steps involved in washing their woollies. (At least they've got as far as not expecting me to do the washing for them.) I guess they don't do this often enough to remember own their own. So, in case anyone else out there is interested, here's my poster.
NOTE: these instructions apply only if you have an old-fashioned top-loading NOT HIGH EFFICIENCY washer. I had an old Whirlpool model re-built just for me. There is enough movement of the laundry load in the newer high efficiency models, even on their "soak" cycles to felt wool. Unfortunately, I learnt this the hard way.




To Wash Woollens


1. Set the washer temp to “WARM”.
2. Set the water level to “SMALL” or “MEDIUM”.
3. Pour a capful (at most) of Eucalan into the washer.
4. Fill the washer with water by setting the dial at “Regular”, then just as it starts to agitate turn the dial to OFF and push the dial in so that the machine is completely turned off.
5. Submerge your garment in the sudsy water, gently squeezing out the air.
6. Allow the garment to soak for 30 min or longer, leaving the lid of the machine up.
7. Turn the dial and set it anywhere that says, “Spin”, then pull it out to activate the machine. The machine will not spin until you close the lid.
8. Let the machine finish the cycle. Remove the garment, supporting it with your hands to prevent stretching, and lay it flat to dry on a towel, moulding and patting it into the desired shape.

     Note: Eucalan is a “no-rinse” wool wash.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

What's In a Name?

Quite a lot, in fact, when knitters are trying to look up a design on Ravelry. With the proliferation of indie designers, e-publishing, and Ravelry, it's becoming increasingly difficult to avoid duplication in the naming of patterns. Add to that the fact that magazine editors have a preference for one-word names, as well as names that are easy to pronounce from their spelling (I have personal experience with this, having once tried to name a pattern "Strachan"), the problem is even more vexing. There are definite trends in names. I can't help but notice an unusual number of designs with made-up feminine-sounding names ending in the letter "a". It all makes me want to go the route of Sonya Philips with her sewing patterns named by number, i.e. Dress #1, Dress #2, etc.
All this is merely a preface to letting you know that, as of a few minutes ago, I have decided to re-name my favourite fall garment. Back in the spring, when I first chose a name, I performed the usual Ravelry search to check that the name had not been taken, and at that time nothing showed up. However, since then a pattern company has posted onto Ravelry a pattern leaflet from almost a decade ago with the same name. Wanting to avoid confusion, while at the same time retaining the obvious reference to the actress in question, I have simply altered the name of my own design to "Audrey's Coat". An apostrophe makes all the difference. You can find it here. Now, back to sewing the buttons onto my new plum version, which I intend to wear next weekend at the Wool and Wine Retreat in Prince Edward County. Maybe I'll see you there.


Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Prepping

Some "preppers" get ready for the apocalyse, some just get ready for winter. I'm in the latter category. With temps expected to plummet by the end of this week, I'm feeling the need to round out my cold weather accessories.


In keeping with my planned colour palette for this season, there's my Yule tam from last winter, and I've decided to add some grey Bibliogloves in BT's Loft in "Snowbound", a pale grey with black flecks, and a new Tumnus scarf in Berroco's Ultra Alpaca worsted in "Oceanic Mix". The latter is a rich melange of teal greens and blues. I'm so in love with it that I might need to pick up more to make a sweater.
P.S. My plum Audrey Coat only needs pocket linings, then some weaving in of ends, and some wet blocking. Can't wait to wear it.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Forever and Ever

Still working on the plum edition of the Audrey Coat. Not sure why this seems to be taking so much longer than the two I made last spring. Feel as though I will be knitting this forever and ever. At the moment, near the hemline of the body, the whole thing feels like a blanket. I could not have done this in the summer, in our house with no air conditioning. At this point in the year, however, the coziness is actually welcome.


I decided today that I also need a couple of more pieces from Sonya Philip's 100 Acts of Sewing, so I cut out fabric for a dress and another pair of pants, both for wearing at Rosehaven's Wool and Wine Retreat next month.
In the same vein, I've been showing some pairings of my sewn wardrobe + my own knitted designs on Instagram. Here they are:

Buttonbox Waistcoat (wide collar version) + Pants #1 + short boots.

Cataraqui Scarf + Skirt #1 + 13-yr-old J.Jill velvet jacket. (Imagine little heels and raspberry lipstick.)
 Finally, I noticed this simple but amazing planting while out for my morning constitutional.
Hydrangeas and ivy at Queen's University.
 
P.S. For those of you lucky enough to be heading off to Rhinebeck (I won't be going this year), here is a post from 4 years ago with some possibly useful observations.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Cool

My wardrobe plan for fall is working. Today is sunny and cool--perfect for an outing in Dress #1 from 100 Acts of Sewing in Merchant and Mills teal washed linen (purchased from Fabrications in Ottawa) topped by my original grey Audrey Coat.



I'll probably wear grey bamboo leggings, half boots, and perhaps my Fibonacci Neckerchief. When the weather is like this, it's the best time of the year. Few insects, warmish afternoons, lots of opportunities to wear thick sweaters without having to cover them up with a winter coat.
I'm participating in #slowfashionoctober. Be sure to share your own makings there too.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Thanksgiving, 2017

Today we are experiencing the dregs of Hurricane Nate, with a "Tropical Cyclone Special Weather Statement" on Environment Canada's website--the first time I've seen such a thing! Actually, it seems as though we are having nothing more dire than a very rainy day. A good excuse to stay inside, eat turkey leftovers, and knit, don't you think?
Yesterday, Isabel (who is visiting for the weekend) and I did a neighbourhood walk in the unusually balmy and still sunny weather. Our new house is just a few blocks west of Queen's University, and we are still getting acquainted with what the area has to offer. We toured the garden at Bellevue House for a last time this season, and saw some Swiss chard which was amazingly healthy looking for so late in the season.


Then we walked down King St.West to the Tett Centre's Juniper Cafe, where Isabel enjoyed a hot chocolate. The view of the lake from inside the cafe is special.


Next, we walked a few more blocks west to Awlington St., where there is a pleasant mix of newish (pre-WW2) houses with 1840s-era homes, like the one below.


Today being much cooler, I'm giving my new seamless aran a first wearing.



Above you can see it paired with Sonya Philip's Pants #1, although today I'm wearing it with her Dress #1 and leggings. Both sewing patterns are from Sonya's 100 Acts of Sewing collection. The sweater goes with EVERYTHING. Still no name for it. Suggestions are welcome.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Lopi Mystery Solved (Sort of)

I had an interesting conversation today with a local yarn shop owner who told me that, because of a fairly recent deal between Berroco and Istex (the Lopi producers in Iceland), ALL North American sales of Lopi are currently being distributed through Berroco. Now, for my American readers I will explain that many, if not most, Canadian yarn shops do not sell Berroco products, and those that do face the problems of border taxes, duties, and brokerage fees when the wool crosses the border into Canada. Lopi does not fall under NAFTA protection, unlike the mattress I recently purchased online. This explains why Canadian shops that previously had reliable inventories of Lopi (enough to knit my Audrey Coat) no longer do.
To get around this problem, a couple of weeks ago I ordered direct from Iceland via this website. I thought the shipping costs would be prohibitive, but lo and behold, the entire ten balls of Alafoss Lopi, shipped, cost about US$80. Since my Ravelry sales are in US dollars, I am able to pay in the same currency through Paypal. So simple, and the wool arrived in just a few days!
I've been beavering away at it for the last few days, while Bill is having fun in Paris, and you can see that I'm at that exciting point where the body and sleeves divide.


You are, of course, looking at the coat upside down since it is knitted from the top down. The most exciting bit from my perspective is the beginning of the seed stitch pleat. There won't be much more excitement from here to the start of the pockets. Audiobook time!
Meanwhile, fall has arrived in earnest. This afternoon the lake was full of sailors bringing their vessels home for the conclusion (or near conclusion) of the season. Here they are at the entrance to the Kingston Yacht Club harbour area.



And you really know it's fall when giant cruise ships drop anchor in the passage between Wolfe Island and the mainland. I think it's mainly German tourists arriving (early) to see the fall colours. Good luck with that. Our weather has been weird and no one knows how it will affect the trees.
Finally, in case anyone is wondering why I chose to stay behind instead of tagging along to France, it's because the prospect of having the house to myself for a week held more allure than the Louvre or Paris Opera. Sad, but true.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tutorial: Decreasing into Cables

My aran sweater is almost done. I'm at the point in the upper body where the raglan decreases are eating into the cables. In a lot of sweaters, even ones in knitting magazines, you will see that when the point was reached when a full cable couldn't be completed, the knitter simply left a portion of the cable in stocking stitch. This is not a good look.
The solution? When there are insufficient stitches to complete the full cable, work the remaining stitches in something resembling the original cable as much as possible.

Example #1: my sweater has columns of OXO cables worked over 8 stitches. When there were not enough stitches left to "place 2 stitches onto a cable needle, hold them at the back, k2, then k2 from the cable needle", I placed 1 stitch onto the cable needle, held it at the back, then knitted 2, then knitted the 1 stitch from the cable needle. OK, I didn't actually use a cable needle (see here for cabling without one), but you get the idea.

Example #2: when the same OXO cable lost more stitches from the other side due to some neck decreasing, leaving only 6 stitches for the entire cable, I brought only 1 stitch from each side to the centre to close the "O" while still moving the original 4 centre stitches to the back.

What does the result look like?


In the above pic you can just catch the beginning of the neck shaping in the upper left corner along with the raglan shaping that's in progress on the right hand side. As the OXO cable is squeezed from both sides, some alteration in the manipulation of the cable was needed to keep it going as long as possible.
The result is an OXO cable that doesn't quite look like the original, but comes close enough to fool the eye into seeing an undisturbed column of cables. Much better than a big patch of stocking stitch in a sea of cables.
BTW, manipulating cables while working raglan decreases is relatively simple when you are working in the round, as I am with this sweater. It's easy to keep all the cables doing the same things as you work them all in one round, as opposed to working in pieces and having to check your previous work to see that you've made everything match. Cable on!