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!

Blanket Statement – Jennifer Lori’s Lullaby Blanket

This is the very talented Jennifer Lori‘s Lullaby Blanket which I made for my niece who is due later this month.  It is simply breathtaking and has been one of my very most favourite projects – a pleasure to knit from start to finish. Watching the “Hush Baby, Sleep Baby” text unfold one row at a time was magical.  I completed it a while ago but am just now getting around to posting about it.  (Interesting note and not so minor miracle: I didn’t make a single mistake on this project – not a single screw-up! I’m hoping the cosmos will send me a prize for that.) A perfect combo of beautiful design, a well-written pattern and a really lovely yarn.

Yarn and Needles – just what the doctor ordered

Most of the time, knitting for me is great therapy.  Watching stitches turn into fabric is a soothing, multi-sensory pleasure that calms me and helps take my mind off my troubles and helps me think more clearly.  It’s also an effective distraction from the nerve-wracking business of watching the Canucks’ playoff games.  I think Virginia Woolf said once that knitting was the saving of life and I couldn’t agree more.   I found working on my latest project very healing indeed.  A co-worker and his wife recently had their first daughter, Ariane.  As I always do when starting something new, I feverishly scoured Ravelry and my copious library to find just the right project.  I first thought a February Baby Sweater was in order but I’ve made so many of those before – I wanted something new.  As soon as I saw Baby Kina by Muriel Agator, I knew I had found the perfect little cardie for a summertime baby.  Here’s my version in a lovely robin’s egg blue Sirdar Snuggly DK with shell buttons.  I’ve also made some matching Baby Janes by Wandering Cat (aka Valerie Johnson) to coordinate.  Ain’t it a purty outfit?

Oh, Baby!

I absolutely LOVE this little jacket, Tiered Baby Jacket by the hugely talented Lisa Chemery (aka Frogginette). I just need to find some buttons in my stash that complement the fairy princess look of this adorable little jacket. Then I whipped up a matching hat using Jane Richmond’s Amelia. Ain’t it cute?

There is a major baby boom happening at the office and after the debut of several boys, finally someone is expecting a girl. I don’t know about the rest of you, but I love knitting for girls. Knitting for baby boys can be a challenge since it’s hard to find patterns that are babyish yet manly. Looking at frogginette’s blog reminded me that I’ve got the perfect boy pattern in my library: Baby Sophisticate, a snappy top-down shawl-collared number that can be whipped up in no time. I have some powder blue Needful Yarns Bambini Soft in my stash that would be perfect for it.

Order up! and Honey-bee Socks

The Poffertjesblankie is a little slow and I must pick up the pace since the intended recipient is great with child and due to deliver very soon. Knitting around and around and around can be a little mesmerizing and I sometimes find my eyes involuntarily drooping after about 20 minutes. It’s not boring at all, it’s just sort of hypnotizing. So I’m trying to shake things up and stay awake by alternating making a couple of circles and then connecting them together. That way I can watch the blanket grow, which is quite exciting. Watching a stack of pancakes grow is a little tedious by comparison, although they do look scrumptious. Pass the maple syrup please!

The blankie isn’t the best commuting project (what with all the casting on and snipping and putting stitches on waste yarn). Socks are my preferred knit for the trip to and fro the office every day. So I’ve cast on bumble-bee covered Netherfield from Twist Collective in luscious Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 in a rich Gold. These will be a Christmas present for a friend. She loves bees and this yarn looks like spun honey.

The very helpful gal at Urban Yarns in Edgemont helped me find this. It’s sold with 400 m of Fleece Artist Angel Hair in the more semi-solid version of gold. It’s the spitting image of Kidsilk Haze and I’ll probably use it for a scarf or shawlette thingy. It was on sale for only $20 for the two yarns. Bargain of the week!