Category Archives: knitting

Story of a shawl – Part 2

I tried another shawl with the Waterfall yarn I made during Spinzilla week. This is the Spiral Staircase pattern from Ravelry. Easy peasy. While it does do what I was hoping it would so, show off the subtle colour gradations – I should have used larger needles. This shawl is too small for my liking and the fabric that knit up — on the 4mm needles is too dense. I’m going to try it again with 6mm needles so the fabric will be looser and have a chance to drape.

And I will plan it better, so I use every inch of the yarn, unlike the sample above.

Tilt Shawl: Complete

A while back I wrote about a shawl called Tilt that I was knitting. Lovely simple pattern, but truly a knitting marathon. Knitting a shawl at the height of summer is not the most productive thing to do. After a row or two I had to put it down because it was so large and heating me up. It grew and grew and as I neared the end I knew I understood the joy and relief a marathon runner feels when they finally cross the finish line.

Unlike finishing a race, when you finish knitting a shawl you still have a big piece of work to do. And for a shawl the size of this one, it’s a fairly large job. First you wash it and then you block it. You block it while it is wet and you pull it tight so all the lovely yarn overs open up. Here it is being blocked on my pullout couch. I used blocking wires — seriously, whoever invented those wonderful things truly have a place in heaven. The blocking wires helped me keep the lines straight and even.

And here it is in an au naturale photo shoot.
And here it is posing as a triangular shawl with my period costume for our fibre day at the Fort Langley Historic Site on Labour Day weekend. It was so hot that day I took it off before I left the house.

I’ve since worn it to work and it going to be a major accessory in my wardrobe. Glad of that because the lovely thing took umpteenth number of hours to make.

But that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Knitting/Tinking, it’s all the same action

I have recently been obsessed with knitting the Brooklyn Tweed lace shawl Tilt. It is not a difficult pattern to knit (rated 2 out of 5) for difficulty) but it is a knitting marathon. Using about 1160 yards of fingering weight yarn, and with 8 stitch increases every other round, it’s not long before you have over 600 stitches on your needles. And still have a lot more knitting to go.

It’s a fine and even quite pleasant until you make a mistake. Even though this is rated 2/5 for difficulty, it should be rated 5/5 for correcting knitting errors. In most instances when you notice a mistake a few rows back, you can dig down and correct the error. I say that like it is an easy thing to do, and for the most part, it’s quite straightforward. A knit can be turned into a purl, a purl to a knit, a yarn over dropped or created. But it’s not that easy with this shawl.

This pattern, Tilt, does just that — it tilts. Every other row, the knitting pattern moves over a stitch, giving the lovely effect of the tilt. It is quite a gorgeous effect and makes for interesting knitting because you can easily read the pattern. But it is nearly impossible to correct an error that occurred a few rows down.

(This isn’t a photo of an error, it’s to show you the way the pattern tilts — first to the left and now on this second to last section, to the right. If you happen to find an error, keep it to yourself please.)

The other day, while happily knitting on my commute to work, I noticed a section where I reversed the pattern.  I did a yo, k3tog, yo in the place where I should have simply knit three — and I merrily did that a few times.  I know it’s only knitting and it’s just a shawl that I really don’t need anyway, but when I discovered that series of errors, I went through all the stages of grief:

  • Denial– that’s really not an error, I am just reading this wrong. The light on this train is terrible, it’s all really okay. Just to be on the safe side I’ll put it away for now. It’s not a problem, it’s probably not even an error.
  • Anger – WTF! how could I do that? it’s such an easy pattern, what was I thinking! What a stupid pattern – who would try to move things over every row and make it next to impossible hard to fix?
  • Bargaining – I’ll just try digging it back, I’ll put in a safety line, even though I’ve looked my nose down at those things, and I’ll go slowly and I’ll be ever so patient. And it will all be fixed. But first I’ll have a glass of wine. And then I’ll tell the world what a wonderful pattern this is.
  • Depression – I can’t do this. It’s a a bust. I can’t fix this by digging down, I’m making a mess and then I’ll have to unravel the whole darned thing. I don’t know why I want to knit anyway. I hate knitting right now. I hate this shawl. I’m going to bed.
  • Acceptance – Alright. I miss knitting. I can fix this and the best way to do that is to tink (that’s knit backwards) unknit all the way around and around back a few rows until I get to the error. It may take my entire holiday to do that, but it’s the best way to fix it.

And with the new found acceptance and a safe plan, I did just that. I tinked back two and half rounds. At over 600 stitches per round at this stage, it was no small feat. In doing this I discovered a couple of things. Going back like that was a full-proof way to fix the error. I tinked right back to the problem area and then re-knit it the right way. And that felt good. It was fixed, it was fixed right.

The other surprising thing I learned was that knitting or tinking, it’s all the same action. I mostly knit because I like keeping my hands busy, heaven knows I don’t need another shawl or scarf. I just like to knit. And whether it’s going forwards or backwards, it keeps my hands busy and my mind focused.

It wasn’t so bad after all. Really.

Elowen: the latest shawl

It’s always a great feeling when you have something off your needles, the ends woven in and the item washed and blocked. Here is the latest. It’s called Elowen, available on Ravelry. Made in 100% commercial yarn, the only thing 100-Mile about this shawl is the knitter. But go easy on me folks, we all need distractions.

It’s blocked with shawl pins, one of the world’s greatest inventions. And held down by my collection of river rocks. That’s why I collect flat, heavy rocks.

I’m planning to wear it to work so maybe I can entice the youngest to do a photo shoot.

100-Mile skirt update III

I’ve been faithfully knitting along on my 100-mile skirt until yesterday, when between Scott Road and Gateway Skytrain station, I ran out of yarn.

I’ve done 6 pattern repeats and have just increased in the purl ditches. In my other knitted skirt, I ended up with 14 pattern repeats, and I imagine I want the same length. But that’s all the knitting for now. I have to go back to the very beginning and comb some more of that nasty alpaca and do a whole bunch more spinning.  I figure I am slightly less than 2/3rds of the way through. But it does get wider as it gets longer, so I may actually need almost as much as I started with. Wow, that just knocked me back — that took a long time to make.

Not that I mind the combing or the spinning. It’s easy and mostly fun. It’s just that I was really enjoying the knitting. I was at the stage of knitting the pattern where I had it memorized — believe me it’s not a difficult pattern, but I have it all in my head. If I take too long a break, I’ll loose my rhythm with it. Which is why I am being boringly disciplined with myself and am spending the day combing the alpaca — here’s a close up of it. You can see all the vegetation and nasty bramples just waiting to stab me as I reach in for a lock.

To cheer myself up, I’ll move my lovely bouquet (thanks Davy) into my newly tidied studio to keep me company.  Flowers, Bizet’s Carmen on Radio 2 and maybe a wee glass of bubbly.

Happy Saturday everyone.

Progress report on the 100-mile skirt

It’s coming along nicely. The yarn is lovely to work with and the pattern is mindless. So far it’s just a wide rib stitch with gentle increases every 8cm. Right now it’s 10 inches. It barely and yet completely covers my butt. But alas, I am not of the age where I am comfortable wearing or being seen wearing a mini-skirt, so I knit on. I have a bit left of the first ball and then onto the second.

I know I will have to spin up more of this yarn. My thinking is that with so much of the skirt already knit, I will be duly inspired to get right to it.

But it’s coming along and I’m excited to be at this stage of the project. Hoping I’ll be wearing at Fibreswest this year. Nothing like a deadline to get things in focus.

Knitting on the Go: Part 1

I live in the countryside outside of Vancouver. I work in the city. While often I am able to work from home, I do spend a considerable amount of time commuting each week. As a result, I’ve learned how to knit on the go.

Knitting on a bus, train or even in a car can be a tricky business.  You don’t have a lot of space, in fact there is very little elbow room.  It’s often difficult to consult patterns, especially ones in books.  With the exception of mitts or hats, it is hard to try things on for size. I leave early and arrive home late so many times it’s dark on the bus. Because of the myriad of distractions around you, the knitting you are doing needs to be fairly mindless, but not too much so or it will lull you in sleep.  And finally, some people are self-conscious about knitting in public. People tend to stare at you and some even ask questions. With all these challenges in mind, why on earth would you even try?

I conquered the process of knitting on the go due to the basic facts that on my commute I have an abundance of time, my hands are free, and I desperately need something to distract me from the tedium of the travel around me.

So here are a few things I’ve learned. First, the item I’m knitting has to be compact. A pair of socks, mitts or a hat are great things to knit on the train. Having a pattern that is easily to memorize is an added bonus. That’s where these lovely mitts come in. They are from the yarn I dyed on a Good day to day. The yarn for these mitts came from the Magic of rainwater experiment.

I love the Baby Fan Lace mitts by Morgan Wolf. They are lovely to knit and the fan lace pattern is easy to memorize. The only problem with knitting these is when I come to the thumb gusset. It’s not a difficult thing to do, but it does require concentration. The thumb gusset increases happen on every third row and the fan lace pattern is over four rows. So to stay on track you need to follow the lace chart and check off your progress. This is a wee bit tricky on the bus/train as you need to keep the pattern nearby and a pen at ready.

So here’s my solution to that problem.

I decided to try something different around the treatment of the thumb. When I got to the place where I’d start the gusset I did so by defining the stitches for the gusset with yarn overs. Then I stopped the lace pattern and knit in straight stocking stitch. I marked each increase row with a yarn over on each side of the increase. Because I was putting in these yarn overs I had to decrease on each side of them as I did not want the gusset increases to come from yarn overs, but from “make one left” and “make one right”.  [I’ll write the whole pattern out soon.]

The point I am trying to make is that by using yarn overs as a “marker” I could do a couple of things. I was able to add a decorative element to the pattern which also served as an easy way to read my progress. It’s easy to count what row you are on after a yarn over, something that you could do by feel and in dim lighting. After I set aside the thumb stitches, I continued in the regular pattern right to the end.

So that’s a way I did minor adjustments to a pattern which enabled me to knit it with ease on the bus.

I love these mitts.  Everything about them. They are truly 100-mile wear.

Acacia Farm Half Mitts – complete

It was with great joy that I handed over to Jacqueline and Linda the six pairs of mitts I made from their fibre.  Here they all are.  All are hand spun, hand knit, and four of them are hand dyed.  Their reaction to these mitts made all of it worthwhile.

I haven’t really decided which one was my favourite, but these two below are in the running. The pattern for this one is Baby Fan Lace that I’ve used many, many times before. I love this pattern. It’s easy to do, easy to manipulate. I made this pair from a fingering weight I spun up of blended fibres. They were a light grey but I threw them into the dye pot at the last minute. And I am glad I did.

This is another pair that is in my favourite list. It’s just my standard mitten pattern instead of a ribbed cuff I made a 3 x 1 rib throughout. I love the way this yarn (made from the blending the dark grey and white fibre and then plying the blended fibre with a singles made of pure dark grey or white) behaves when over dyed with blue. It looks like denim.

The other day I noticed that my own pair of half-mitts is a little worse for wear.  Now that all the Christmas preparations are done, I can get into my studio and get started on a pair (or two) of these for myself.

Mitts #4 and #5 for Jacqueline

I am in the process of finishing up my knitting agreement with Jacqueline.  In exchange for 10 lbs of washed fibre (5lbs of dark grey, 5lbs of white) I agreed to make her six pairs of half-mitts.  Two for men, four for women.
I’ve got five pairs made, here’s #4 and #5 where I got out the dyes and had some fun with colour. The orange skein used to be all white.  The blue/green skein was 75% white and 25% grey.  I love the way the grey tones down the colour, while the white shows the true hue.  Combined in one yarn it adds depth.

Both skeins just off the drying rack. And below, wound into balls in preparation for knitting.  My commute to the city for work gives me a great chance to clock some good knitting hours.

Here’s pair #4 complete except for weaving in the ends, and the beginning of pair #5.  This is my second attempt at pair #5.  I had 3/4 of a mitt knit up in a lace pattern and finally admitted it was too large.  So it ripped it out and started all over again.  Put me a bit behind schedule, but the second attempt is much nicer.

I finished the orange pair last night.  And here they both are: #4 and #5 complete with the ends woven in.  I apologize about the quality of the photos, I can’t find my camera in my disaster of a studio, so I’ve been relying on the camera in my bberry.

I have one more pair to make.  The yarn that I made for it last week is not quite right, so it’s back to the spinning wheel.  That’s fine.  It’s a rainy day, my baking is done and all’s well with the world.  My world anyway.

Happy spinning.

Jenny’s elegant gauntlets – Complete

It all started in early August.  I wrote about it in Yarn for a new project.  I also shared with you what I thought was a minor disaster, yarn with tons of bits and noils in it. Then, to document the process, I did a quickie post.  So here is a photo shoot of the finished gauntlets.

The pattern for these mitts comes right from Morgan Wolf’s Baby Fan Mitts that you can get for free on Ravelry. In an earlier trial run of this project, I tried to figure out how to make the lace wider at the elbow and then slowly narrow down for the wrist.  Everything I came up with, while it looked good, required a great deal of attention and concentration.  Both of which I have very little to spare.

So I tried an old trick that has served me very well many times.  Instead of casting on with 3mm needles like the pattern wanted me to do, I cast on with a 5mm.  After 3 inches of that, I moved down to 4mm.  Three more inches, and then down to the 3mm, which is where you would probably begin the pattern.  And then I was on my way.  Three inches of that and I started the thumb gusset.

The larger needles at the elbow opened up the lace and made for an airy fabric.  As I moved onto the other needles, especially the 3mm, you can see how the fabric got more dense.

I delivered them to Jenny and they fit her perfectly.  She loves them, which is always a treat for those of us making these items.

Thanks to my model, our youngest.