Testing, testing! Shawl testing in progress!


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!


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!