Friday, July 31, 2009

Things I Won't Do

We attended a rather marvelous event last night - a Craft Beer Summer BBQ. Lots of great beers to sample and food to enjoy - and all for the bargain price of $35 a person.

We've been going to similar sorts of beer festivals for many years, and we have a well-evolved strategy. Wear loose clothing and comfortable shoes and take a small shoulder bag with only the essentials: money, ID, front door key, a water bottle and sunscreen.

Such beer festivals are just about the only event I don't take knitting to. I'd be afraid of losing a needle, screwing up the knitting, or indeed hurting someone with the needle.

However, at last night's event, I spotted a brave soul sitting at a table, knitting. And not just any knitting - she was doing colourwork from a chart. While drinking.

Me, I hesitate to even leave the house when doing colourwork.

She looked like she was doing very well when I spotted her - but then it was fairly early in the evening. I wonder how well she was doing a couple of hours later...

Anonymous knitter, I bow to your skill - or at least chutzpah.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Decrease 33 sts evenly across row...

This is the sort of instruction that strikes fear in the heart of many knitters.

Increase or decrease so many sts evenly across the row.

We ran into a terrific example last night in a Norah Gaughan pattern... On a row of 113 sts, decrease 33 stitches evenly across.

Now I do understand why these instructions are the way they are. In a multi-size pattern, it's a lot of fiddling for the designer to write up the detailed instructions on how to space out the decreases. And it takes up a lot of space in a printed pattern.

After all, this Norah Gaughan pattern has four or five sizes, each with a different number of stitches, and with a different number to decrease. It's much simpler - and takes up less room - if the specific details are left to the knitter. If the designer isn't specific about how to handle this, it typically means that the type of decrease (or indeed, increase) and the positioning doesn't matter much for the final result. If it really matters, the designer will (should!) specify.

One of the most notorious examples of this is the final yoke increase in the February Lady Sweater. (No insult intended to the designer - she's done a great job with it overall.) But this is a doozy. You're you're dealing with a massive number of stitches and a rather extraordinary number of increases.....

Work 41 (38, 47, 41, 41, 38, 39) YOs spaced evenly between the 197 (207, 219, 239, 267, 291, 311) center stitches.

A helpful and smart knitter out there has created an online tool to help you calculate the spacing of the increases. And in the class that I teach about this pattern, I provide specific instructions for each of the sizes.

There's also a decrease calculator on the same site.

To complicate things, increasing and decreasing are handled differently, and there are a couple of different ways of calculating the increase pattern depending on which increase you use.

I like M1 - either the EZ backwards loop method or the lifted bar method or - since you're creating a stitch out of nothing and it makes the math easier. (Check out this page for a terrific summary and demo of all the key increases. EZ backwards loop is M1A and M1T, and lifted bar is M1R and M1L. You can choose one and stick with it for most purposes - the differences are pretty small between the A/T and the R/L versions.)

I also use this example in my Pattern Reading class. Coincidentally, there's a session coming up next week, at Lettuce Knit... Click here for more info.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Phew! The Gansey Sock is Done

First gansey sock is complete.

And now I can breathe.

I've been holding my breath for the last couple of days because I wasn't sure I'd have enough yarn.

That little tiny ball is all that's leftover from a 50gm ball of yarn. I was hoping hoping hoping I'd be able to get the sock out of one ball, since I'd only ordered two from Yorkshire.

To make matters worse, just before I started decreasing for the toe, I realized that I'd missed one of the gusset decrease rounds (yes, I still do things like that - my excuse is that I was designing as I went, and I did the math wrong ;-) ), and I had two more stitches than I had wanted in the sole. I was frantically doing the calculations on how many additional rounds I'd be able to get out of the foot if I pulled back and worked those extra decreases....

I took a deep breath, forged ahead, and just managed to squeeze a complete sock out of a single ball. Phew. You'll notice that the leftover yarn is kinked. I did have to undo the swatch.

Let's just hope that the second ball matches the first for yardage...

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Gansey Sock Design #2

I've written about my love for ganseys and my ideas for gansey socks before.

Earlier this summer, I ordered myself some real gansey (a.k.a. guernsey yarn) from Wingham Wool in Yorkshire.

It's actually fairly scary stuff. Knitters would work heavily patterned, men's size sweaters in this yarn. This yarn, which works up to 28 sts on 10 cm/4 ins using 2.5mm needles. Yes, that's right - it's about the same size as a sock yarn.

That's a serious commitment.

Real gansey yarn is tightly spun 5-ply, 100% wool. And it usually comes in a very limited range of colours - a darker colour (grey or navy) for everyday wear, and white for "best". (I love the thought that your "best" clothes were just a different coloured sweater. Now that I no longer work in an office regularly, that's my kind of dressing up.)

It's designed specifically to be warm and long-wearing. Which also makes it entirely applicable to socks. Although it is 100% wool, the extra plies and the tight spin will help it wear longer. It is hand-wash only, which may strike some as insane for socks, but the way I look at it, these are my "best" socks and I won't wear them that often.

And with this, the following sock has resulted...

Unlike my previous gansey sock design, I've used horizontal patterning, divided by classic purl ridges. And, naturally, I have a fake seam stitch to divide the front and the back - a seam which continues down the foot.

Each of the stitch patterns comes from a traditional source. I've been using the following books as reference for ideas:

Beth Brown Reinsel's Knitting Ganseys
Sabine Domnick's Cables, Diamonds and Herringbones
Gladys Thompson's Patterns for Jerseys, Guernseys and Arans

The first of these three is an absolute masterpiece - not only does it have patterns for various sweaters for adults and kids, it also guides you through the process of creating your own miniature gansey using traditional construction techniques - and then helps you design your own. Domnick's book has some good history, a few garments, but lots and lots of stitch patterns. And the Thompson book is much older, and is really just ("just" is not meant as an insult here, it's encyclopedic) a collection of stitch patterns, categorized by region and origin.

Anyway, yes, first of the gansey socks is just about done, and I'll be writing up the pattern in the near future.

(N. just wandered into the room. "What are you doing"" "Just blogging." "What about?" "Socks." "I would never have guessed." Readers - am I boring you? I promise, I do knit things other than socks - I've got a lace design idea coming up next!)

Saturday, July 18, 2009

My Name is Kate, and I Have a Problem

I was long overdue for a haircut, so I made my way down to one of the scariest blocks in the city.

It's in a great part of town, and is a nice walk from home. The scary bit is that in the same block there is a very good coffee shop, my favourite clothes shop, a giant yarn shop, a phenomenally good vintage shop, and my hairdresser. A haircut can become very very expensive and highly caffeinated.

I got off pretty lightly this time. Except for one small thing.

Only a little thing.

The aforementioned giant yarn shop who shall remain nameless (if you're in Toronto, you know which one it is) is having a 20% off everything sale.

Even then, I was disciplined. I stayed in the bargain basement.

And this was sitting the corner, shouting my name.

$7.99 for 100gm of Fortissima Socka? I couldn't leave it. And it was included in the sale! Less than half the original price!

I love Socka. It was one of the first 'real' sock yarns I started with back in the mid 1990s, and I've loved it ever since. It's hard-wearing, easy-to-knit, a good gauge for in-shoe wear (30-32 sts) and comes in colours both fun and sensible. This will be perfect for a paying-attention-to-something-else plain stocking stitch sock.

So, once again, I buy sock yarn. I have a lot of sock yarn.

That having been said, I am trying to use it up as fast as I can.

On the needles right now - a Silk Garden plain sock for times when I need to pay attention to something else, a commissioned lace design with Tanis Fiber Arts sock - more details later - and my second gansey sock design.

The gansey and lace socks have deadlines, so I've been spending more time on those.

There's also the matter of the second Shibui sock which I need to cast on. And then this new Cascade sock yarn for which I have a design idea.... and then...

and then there's the rest of the stash. Last time I checked, I had between 40-50 pairs' worth of sock yarn in the stash....

My name is Kate, and I have a Problem.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

For Sale or Trade

(Click to embiggen.)

I've got 6 skeins of Estelle Cadenza leftover from a design project. It's a lovely soft yellow-green variegated blend (colour 967), and the yarn itself is fingering weight 80% superwash merino and 20% Tussah silk. Excellent for lace and truly luxurious socks. 350m per skein.

As you can see, it's still in the bag.

Colour 967 - you can see more info at

Email me if you're interested.

I Love Them, But They're Dangerous

My beloved new Signature needles, with their amazing points, are dangerous. They've been poking holes in my knitting bags.

I'm a big fan of the Knowknits GoKnit bags, and there's a new colour just coming out this summer - an awesome space-agey silver with orange stitching. Love it!

And - in the best news - the fabric is thicker and tougher than the standard colours - it looks more than strong enough to withstand the killer needles. But I'm certainly going to be testing them out over the next week or so - lots of streetcar travel.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

What I Did Today

Look! That's a sheep! And you might recognize the sweater as the handiwork of Ann and Eugene Bourgeois, the very lovely proprietors of Philosopher's Wool Company. I was honoured to be able to try it on.

Ann and Eugene hosted us for a most wonderful visit. Their yarns and designs are truly fabulous, and they are a great Canadian fibre success story.

More on the visit a bit later...

Thursday, July 09, 2009

New Pattern: Top-Down With A Difference Vest

I'm pretty pleased with this one. I've blogged before about the pros and cons of top-down construction.

I love how a top-down one-piece construction has some truly great benefits: very little finishing, it's easy to try on as you go, great to use up leftovers and adjust the length as you need.

But they're most often raglans - and raglans don't work for every body type. I look terrible in a raglan - they either fit around the shoulders or the bust, but never both. A raglan just doesn't lend itself to a tailored fit, and they are not as easy to adjust as some people claim.

Inspired by Barbara Walker, I created a top-down, one-piece set-in sleeve design, with shaped shoulders. (Well, ok, it's sleeveless, but the armholes are tailored and shaped as if it was a set in sleeve.)

I've added optional bust and waist shaping, to tailor the fit as precisely as you need it to - again, another great advantage of top-down - try it on to see what sort of shaping you need. And I've kept the edgings minimal - simple and rolled, so that the tailoring can really shine.

Now available on Patternfish.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Socks 101 Auf Deutsch

Vielen Dank to Elsi, who has created a German language sock knitting tutorial, inspired by my Socks 101 article on Knitty.

It's very well illustrated - in fact, much better than my original article. Worth a visit even if you don't know a single word of German.

NYC Haul: the Highlights

Cascade Heritage Sock Yarn! Just for research purposes, you understand.

And because I like to buy local, some sock yarn in a colourway called Calico - lovely white, grey and ginger colours - from a place called Farmhouse Yarns, based in New England. It's a great wool/nylon blend, and I can't wait to get it on the needles.

Although, I have to say, they should consider changing the name of the yarn if they want to broaden their audience outside North America...

click to read the label.

And then I also bought this, because I love this sort of obscure, hard to understand insanity...

It's in German. Old German. Click the picture to see it.

Full of terrific examples of lace knitting, and the odd chart. Big inspiration in this small volume, I think - if not much in the way of actual patterns.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Knitting at Knewark

On our way home from a quick weekend away in NYC... lots of eating and shopping. The Trader Joe's bag probably gave that away.

Also lots of yarn shopping, too. Visited Purl, Seaport Yarn and Knitty City.

Did you know that Cascade has a sock yarn? I do not understand how I could have missed this! Cannot wait to get it on the needles. Also, I got myself a set of those rather odd square dpns. I have to give them a try. I hope my Signature needles don't get jealous... ;-)

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

All Socks All the Time at the Moment

Not just because of the needles (yeah, yeah, I know; I'm boring you), but because I'm actually on a publication deadline... all I'm knitting at the moment is socks.

I've got the super-secret assignment sock

which is all cables and complex stuff, so it's slow and careful going. I've got the second sock almost done, but I'm quietly starting to worry about how much yarn I have left. It's a 110gm skein, and I've got about an inch left in the foot and then the toe, and about 17gm left in the little ball. I'm sure I'll be ok, but it feels like that ball is getting smaller and smaller far too quickly. I do have 5gm of yarn in the swatch, so I can salvage that if need be. Keep your fingers crossed for me, as I don't think there's any of that yarn in the city right now.

And then there's the restful plain stocking stitch Noro Silk Garden sock.

This is the in transit/at party/on the phone knitting.

Not sure with how the colours are working out, but we'll see when the second one is knitted up. The plan with these socks is to just work from the ball without worrying about where the colours start. I did the heel from the centre of of the ball, but what I've got is rather too neutral right now -- with the exception of that splash of purple at the base of the leg. It's going to turn turquoise at any minute, so that should break things up.

And absolutely nothing else. Am not allowed to start anything else until the red sock is done. Hopefully tonight.

We have a terrible (hopefully fabulously so) movie to watch, so I plan on making lots of progress.