Testing, testing! Shawl testing in progress!

ALL SHAWLS ALL THE TIME, Y’ALL

Atmen Shawl by Shannon Cook (test knit)

I’m one of those people who can not have enough shawls. I wear ’em every which way practically every day: draped over my shoulders like Whistler’s Mother (yes I’m old but I don’t actually have a rocking chair); triangles with the pointed end in front or to the side and the ends wrapped and tucked underneath, with or without a wooden shawl pin; long crescents wrapped once or twice with the ends flowing free – you name it, I’ll wear it! Sometimes I like to do the “triple-threat”: knitting a shawl while wearing a shawl and having another draped over my legs to keep extra warm.  (It’s been a cold winter and my old house is rather drafty, she whined.)

The beauty shown above is another test knit in progress for Shannon Cook. It’s a super squishy and cozy model called Atmen. The pattern calls for Brooklyn Tweed’s newest 100% Targhee Wool spun yarn Arbor and the fabric is a textural delight. Be sure to check out other testers’ projects on social media using the hashtags #atmenshawl and #soveryshannon. The stitch definition with Arbor is gorgeous!

Although I have three yummy skeins of Arbor in the vibrant Tincture shade in my stash, I’m saving those for something else as yet dreamed of. BTW, I bought those skeins at the Beehive Wool Shop in Victoria when Jared Flood himself was there for a Woolens trunk show last December. I still get heart palpitations just thinking about how fabulous it was to meet and talk with him. Plus, he signed my copies of Woolens and Olga’s Capsule, my Arbor yarn labels and my collection of BT shade cards.  Good thing they weren’t serving alcohol there. Otherwise, I probably would have asked him to sign my face, plus I’d have bought waaaaay more yarn.

Yarn Substitution

For my Atmen, I decided to use an favourite workhorse: Cascade 220 Sport. To complement the rich creamy Natural for the main colour, I chose the heathered shades of Silver Gray and Jet as my MC#1 and MC#2.  I got gauge perfectly on 4 mm needles but of course it’s a much different yarn than Arbor.

Cascade Yarns 220 Sport

Like bouncy Arbor, 220 Sport is also 100% wool but is also available in heathery shades, not just solids.  It’s not as smoothly spun and has a lovely halo but is still great for showing off stitch definition, e.g. cables, twisted stitches, lace, ribbing, etc.  I find both yarns soft to the touch and easy to wear next to skin. And trust me, in this ribbed stitch pattern, it’s super squish-tastic!

Help for Making Yarn Substitutions

Check out the awesome website yarnsub.com where you can search for a substitute when you can’t find a called-for yarn – or just for fun – it really is a kick.  But keep in mind that it’s not a definitive list of possible substitutions.  Here’s what YarnSub said about Cascade 220 Sport when I was searching for substitutions for Arbor:

Stay Tuned…

Keep an eye on Shannon’s feeds and on Ravelry for Atmen – she’ll be releasing it pretty soon I think.

Coming soon – pics of my recent FOs (including my With Ease shawl by Sylvia McFadden and, as soon as get it blocked, my stripey Theme and Variation shawl from The Book of Haps) as well as a look at yet another shawl on my needles.

Til then, happy knitting everyone!

 

Solstice Sky – or what to make with gorgeous yarn

Yes, it’s summer, but soon it will be bloody freezing again.  Here’s a little something to whip up before the chill is back in the air…

Solstice Sky

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Every fall, I go to Circle Craft Christmas Market in Vancouver specifically to buy yarn from one of my favourite hand-dyers in the world, Trish Moon from Indigo Moon Yarns. She is a master of colour (mistress of colour?) and has an uncanny ability to combine my favourite colours with the squishiest, most delicious yarn imaginable.

There it was on the table in her booth, a pile of yummy worsted weight Indigo Moon Studio Edition Merino in the most delicious saturated colours. The one that jumped out at me was in an exquisite colour called Solstice Moon. Five seconds later, money flew out of my wallet and two skeins were in my bag.  Result!

This gorgeous yarn begs for cables and soon my brain sprouted an idea for a hat – a cabled beanie with a little bit of slouch. I swatched, I knit, I sketched, I sent it for testing and knit some more and, yada, yada, yada, Solstice Sky was born.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A quick-to-knit cable-panel beanie, it’s an adult size M-L knit in the round from the brim up and stretches easily to comfortably fit noggins from 19-23” (48-59 cm). The instructions for the cable are both written and charted and it uses approximately 150-165 yds (137-151 m).

The pattern is $5.00 – click the “Buy Now” button below to purchase it from my Ravelry store.  (FYI, you do not have to be a member of Ravelry to purchase the pattern, but knitting is more fun if you’re a member – it’s free!)

buy-now

Smokestack – My first design

I’m a published designer!

IMG_0564

top row: Slouch style, bottom row: Beanie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first design, Smokestack, is a lacy “faux cable” beanie or slouch hat. Its mirror-image lace “cables” are reminiscent of smoke plumes wafting from a chimneystack on a chilly winter’s day.  With two crown options, the easy-to-memorize lace pattern flows from a ribbed brim and works up quickly – using less than one skein of DK or Worsted yarn – and no cable needle required!  Instructions are both fully written and charted.  Worked seamlessly in the round from the brim up, this is ideal for lace newbies or advanced knitters.

It’s a super-quick knit so it’s perfect for holiday gifting – in a couple of evenings you’ll have a super-cute hat.  I’m warning you though, it’s so cute you won’t want to give it away!

Wanna buy it?  It’s only $5.00 – click the “Buy Now” button below to purchase the pattern from my Ravelry store.  (FYI, you don’t need to be a member of Ravelry to purchase the pattern, but if you want to have more fun with your knitting, you should join – it’s free.)

Nevermind what those PayPal charges are for!

Au contraire, Ricky.  I don’t have a lot of a-splainin’ to do. 

I have reached a point where I can no longer make a credible argument for buying more yarn or patterns or books. Just so you know, I don’t have this argument with myself – it’s with DH of course.

He seems to forget that I NEVER ask him what he spends on beer, gas for his giant pickup truck, shoes or jackets (he’s a bit of a clotheshorse) or wagering occasionally at the racetrack. But for some reason he keeps asking me “Don’t you have enough yarn yet?”, “How much did that latest shipment of yarn cost?”, “What’s this PayPal charge for?”

In the last few months, I’ve bought several beautiful books and patterns and a ton of yarn. So I’ve made a resolution that I will not make any more knitting-related purchases until I’ve knit one item from at least three of those books using only yarn from my stash. To be clear, I have made this decision not because I am letting my husband decide what I spend my hard-earned money on. No, I’m doing this for two reasons – as a personal challenge and because I’m running out of space in my yarn room. The other day I was searching for something and couldn’t find it because there’s just so much stuff in there! The fact that DH will stop needling me is just icing on the cake. 

After careful consideration, my Knit Things From the New Books and/or Stash Project will look like this*:

New Book projects:

Entangled Vines by Alana Dakos from her gorgeous book, Botanical Knits: Twelve Designs Inspired by Trees and Foliage. I’ve got a pile of Cascade Yarns 220 in Smoke Blue that is perfect for this.

Entangled Vines (photo Carlee Tatum)

Antler Cardigan (in a baby size for the gift pile) by Tin Can Knits from their Pacific Knits book (bought at Knit City 2012). Must dig around in my stash for a suitable worsted weight – I’m pretty sure I’ve got a bunch of Patons Class Wool Worsted or Knit Picks Wool of the Andes in there somewhere.

Antler Cardigan (photo Alexa Ludeman)

Liathite from Carol Feller’s gorgeous collection, Among Stones. I don’t have a lot of bulky weight in the stash but I do have some lovely Cascade Yarns Eco+ in Lilac that would be perfect for this cabled hoodie. Is there anything better than a purple cabled sweater?

Liathite Hoodie (photo Joseph Feller)

Stash-Down Projects:

Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Sport – I just ordered this so won’t have it in hand for a couple more weeks. The colours are Blackberry and Dove Gray and it’s for a test knit for Sweaterfreak of her beautiful and flattering My Inner Viking sweater (a fitted seamless, top-down pullover with a stranded colourwork yoke). Because one can never have too many purple sweaters.

Classic Elite Ariosa with Cashmere (Bulky) in Slate Gray (a closeout purchase from The Backwards Loop) is perfect for Crocodrile, a lovely cable-y hooded cowl by Carmen Garcia de Mora. a Spanish designer.

Crocodrile Hooded Cowl (photo Carmen Garcia de Mora)

Rowan Rowanspun 4 Ply – in a delicious tweedy pale pink. I’m thinking Jane Richmond’s lace-yoked Grace cardigan from her beautiful Island book (also bought at Knit City 2012) would be just the ticket.

Grace Cardigan (photo Nicholas Kupiak and Jane Richmond)

Classic Elite Yarns Fresco (sport weight) – another closeout buy from The Backwards Loop. Five skeins in Peacock Greens is perfect for Caireen, a deliciously cabled wrap from Susanna IC from Knitty, Deep Fall 2010. I also have five skeins in pale blue which would be perfect for the hat and mittens set, Loch, from Handmade in the UK, another genius move from Tin Can Knits.

Loch (photo Emily Wessel and Alexa Ludeman)

Jojoland Rhythm (worsted, 1,100 yds) in purply-pink Bumble Berry for bargain-basement price at Elann. This is earmarked for a teeny-sized Thirsty Rose cardigan for the gift stash. I’ll decide what to make with the leftovers some other time.

Thirsty Rose (photo Joseph Feller)

*Naturally, all of these plans are subject to change without notice with no accountability to anyone but myself. So there.

 

Rose Song, Zen Cardigan and Shit Knitters Say

Snowbird Rose Song Shawl – Carol Feller

Carol Feller (aka Littlefellers of www.stolenstitches.com) is one of those designers whose work I just adore. She’s a master of textured fabric – I just love what she does with cables and YOs. I’ll never live long enough to make all of my favourite Stolen Stitches designs, but crossed off my bucket list this week: her Rose Song shawl. Not only is it probably the fastest shawl you’ll ever make (I zipped it off in less than 24 hours – you gotta love 8 mm needles), but it’s simply beautiful. And as always with Carol’s creations, the pattern is well-written and easy to follow.

Snowbird Rose Song – blocking

Carol Feller’s original Rose Song

I fell in love with the yummy fuschia yarn she used for the original, Fyberspates Chunky Scrumptious Solid, but knew I’d have to substitute something more affordable. Turns out I didn’t have to go shopping for yarn at all. After finishing my POP Blanket, I had heaps of cream Cascade Yarns Ecological Wool left over. I hadn’t envisioned my Rose Song in creamy winter white, but it works beautifully. Not only did it knit perfectly to gauge, but I think it’s gorgeous and who doesn’t love a white rose?

Snowbird Rose

Another FO – Zen Cardigan

I’m especially happy with my Zen Cardigan. The yarn is perfect (it washes and machine dries very nicely) and it’s just adorable with the little shell buttons. I also whipped up a coordinating beret from Debbie Bliss’ Simply Baby. Just the thing for a well-dressed baby girl about town.

Zen Cardigan

 

 

 

 

 

Une petite béret

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shit Knitters Say

I love this! I especially like the reference to sneaking yarn into the house. “My husband can’t know I’ve bought more yarn.”

Enjoy – and happy knitting y’all!

Test-knitting, an FO and the Yarn Harlot in Vancouver

Okay, enough pet-peeving. Let’s get back to what really matters: knitting and stuff I’ve been working on!

Now and Zen (Cardigan, that is)

When I first clapped eyes on al-abrigo‘s Zen Cardigan a few weeks ago, I knew I must make it. The pattern wasn’t available yet so I just added it to the favourites pile for future reference. Of course, I have no particular babies to knit for but if a certain someone’s next grandchild is a girl, this is for her. Otherwise, I’ll tuck it away in the gift stash.  Anyhoo, I’m minding my own business trolling Ravelry as I’m wont to do when suddenly I see an opportunity to test knit Zen. Hmmm. Let me think it over. Not!  No thinking required! Of course I volunteered immediately and, as soon as humanly possible, cast on for the 12-18 months size.

It calls for a sport weight yarn so straight away I think of Baby Cashmerino by Debbie Bliss in a deliciously delicate pale, pale lilac that I found at Urban Yarns in Edgemont Village. Here it is in progress. Ain’t it purdy?

Zen Cardigan in progress

Some people like to dis Debbie Bliss yarns but Baby Cashmerino really is lovely. Yes, it’s pricey but dammit, don’t all little babies need at least one expensive handknit woolie made with love? Besides, DB’s colours are scrumptious. And this yarn is good for gifting – no need for the harried new mom to worry too much about hand washing. I’ve got four skeins which is enough for the cardi and a wee matching Parisian beret, non?

Baby Cashmerino – pale lilac

FO Update – Willow Tweed Aranami Shawl

As a human magpie, if something isn’t shiny and right in front of my face, I forget about it and it falls off my radar. Anyway, I’m crawling on the floor of my knitting room the other day arranging the layout of the jolly squares for POP Blanket, and I see folded ever so neatly on the daybed my luscious Willow Tweed Aranami Shawl and it occurred to me that I have failed to share an FO photo of it with the world.  Here it is, resplendent in my back garden:

Willow Tweed Aranami in my backyard

This is one of my very most favourite projects. It’s soooooo nice to touch, it’s soft and squishy and just warm enough to keep the chill off your neck when walking the dog late on a summer’s night. (Okay, if you live anywhere else but Vancouver, you’re thinking: what? Chilly on a summer night? WTF? But in Vancouver, nine times out of ten, it can get dang cold on July evenings.)

Yarn Harlot – Knitting for Speed and Efficiency

Thanks to Knit Social for a fun evening on July 12. Stephanie Pearl-McPhee was in town to teach the rabble how to knit faster in her class Knitting for Speed and Efficiency at the downtown branch of the Vancouver Public Library.

Lord knows I could stand to pick up the pace. If I want to use up even half of the yarn stored under the beds, in the closets and under the floorboards before my 100th birthday, I’m going to have to go into overdrive.

Of course, the number one way to knit faster is this: Stop knitting so bloody slow. Thankfully, Stephanie didn’t actually say that to us. Instead, she gave us a very entertaining talk about the history of knitting, why the modern knitter is so slow and gave us tips to increase our speed. We learned how the craft evolved from being a way for the great unwashed to earn a living while tromping across the moors (they enjoyed eating at least once a day and were therefore serious speed knitters) to a pleasant way for the great washed to while away empty afternoons in the drawing-room while Bates and Mrs. Hughes scurried about understairs decanting wine and admonishing scullery maids.

I often walk while knitting but usually look slightly less grim than our little Shetland friend here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With the advent of machine knitting, the uppercrusters took up the needles and “civilized” needlework by making it an idle pastime rather than a way to feed one’s family. In it’s newly respectable incarnation, knitting was no longer a race against time, but a way to squander your afternoons. Much like Pinterest and Ravelry are nowadays.

Our grandmothers learned the “slow” Victorian way to knit which they in turn taught us, rather than the super-speedy “lever” method of the peasantry that Stephanie then showed us. Check this video of Stephanie demonstrating the lever method using long straight needles, with the right one stuck under her arm. Very interesting, no?

It was definitely fun and eye-opening to learn a new method. I’ll likely not be switching to lever knitting any time soon, but I have refined my technique to make my “throwing” hand move more lever-like and have therefore definitely increased my speed. Also, by “spring-loading” the stitches on your left needle and consciously eliminating extraneous hand and finger movements (including stopping every row to admire one’s work), you experience less fatigue and can go faster than before. Plus, Stephanie is a very engaging speaker and we all had loads of fun learning from her.  It was a great group of knitters.

Thanks again to Knit Social – by the way, can’t wait for Knit City this October!

Pet Peeve No. 183 – Shoe Crimes Against Humanity

PEEVE, n.

Pronunciation: Brit. /piːv/ , U.S. /piv/

Etymology: < peeve v. Compare slightly earlier peeved adj. and earlier peevishness n.(Show More)  orig. U.S.

A peevish or irritable mood; peevishness; a grumble. Also: a source of irritation or annoyance (freq. in pet peeve).

Section 4.3(ii) of the Shoe Criminal Code – the Scrape-Drag

Picture it.  You’re minding your own business, walking down the street on your way somewhere.  En route, you amuse yourself with your thoughts – perhaps thinking of your next knitting project or wondering what the characters from the book you’re currently reading are doing.  (Yes, I already know how irrational that is, but sometimes I over-invest in fictional or other literary characters.)  The sun is shining, the birds are chirping and you’re feeling fine.  Your idyll is shattered when someone falls into step behind you on the sidewalk and they are committing one of civilized life’s greatest crimes:  the dreaded heel Scrape-Drag.  Perhaps their shoes are two sizes too big, or they are too lazy to pick up their feet when the walk or, worst of all, they think this ought-to-be-indictable offence is an adorable affectation.  (“Look at how quirky and prehistoric I am!”)  Either way, you want to swivel around and clock them upside the head with your purse and shout “Pick up your feet for chrissakes!”.  Honestly, when did mothers stop teaching manners to their children?

Section 4.3(ii)(a) of the Shoe Criminal Code – the “Click/Scrape”

A variation on this offence, is the I’m-too-cheap-to-fix-my-high-heels syndrome.  You know this one.  Woman buys pair of high heels.  Woman wears heels until the rubber thingy on the end of the heel wears off and exposes the nail.  Woman waltzes around town oblivious to the nail clicking and scraping the ground as she walks.  Woman is literally “down at the heel” and is commiting a class “A” felony: the Click/Scrape.  You are possessed by the impulse to throttle the offender.  Come ON!  How do these people not know that it’s a RULE that you need to replace the rubber heel thingy before the nail comes through????  Unless you’re a hobo, there’s no excuse for this.  It costs maybe $8 to fix and is a small price to pay to preserve the sanity of those around you.  One could say it’s a cost of doing business issue.  Besides, all those former convicts who learned shoe repair in lock-up and now work at the cobblers exist for a reason.

You know, we’re living in a society!