Surprising Travel Knitting – my Regency Blouse

My latest knitting project is a new summer top: Regency Blouse from Jane Austen Knits 2014.

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Look at that photograph…I was helpless…

Honestly, I’d fallen in love with it from the minute I bought the magazine last year, and the NBK superwash merino fingering weight that I picked up recently was the perfect match for it. I wanted something with subtle colour variation, spring-like, but not too outside of my comfort zone. The yarn knit up beautifully (please ignore the wonky swatching…I’d never seen blocking pins before…) and I was smitten with the combo of pattern and yarn from the get-go.

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No photograph really does the colourway justice, but I tried.

I picked up 1400 yards, because the pattern called for 1200 and I didn’t want to be under and run out when there was no hope of getting more in the same colourway. Besides, what’s the worst that could happen? Extra yarn in this beautiful colour? Not exactly what I’d call a problem…

Despite being a top, it’s deceptively simple, and once I got past the shoulder increases it was straight stockinette stitch for several inches, making it perfect to take on the train.

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My life is a walking advertisement for VIA Rail Canada.

All it now takes it one single stitch maker to mark the beginning of each round. And wouldn’t you know it? The stitch marker is also…purple.

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“I heard you liked purple, so I put some purple with your purple so you can purple while you”…wow this meme is old…

Because I knit it so much on the train, or perhaps in front of the TV (go Blackhawks! Sorry Tampa Bay…) it’s working up surprisingly fast. When I look down at it after the credits of the movie roll and the lights come on I’ve always forgotten how much work can get done when I’m not looking at it. We’re almost past half way!

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Is that a little bit of lace I see at the bottom?! And yes, I’m definitely still rocking the handmade Sesame Street Project bag made for me by Rachel!

My goal is to have it finished by the time NBK comes to visit my LYS in Toronto so I can show them how much I love their yarn. It’s some of the nicest stuff I’ve ever worked with, so I’m hoping I can do it justice!

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FO: Bloemen voor Daphne

Lots of people that see me knitting in public comment that they would LOVE to knit, but they just simply don’t have the patience. I don’t know exactly how many times I’ve given variations of my “I don’t knit because I have patience, I have patience because I knit” …but we are definitely in the double digits. Knitting is what keeps me patient in long lines, or when traveling. It’s what makes movies and TV shows not feel like a waste of time, and honestly helps me continue to pay attention if the knitting doesn’t become distractingly complicated. I recently knit an inch extra of stockinette stitch in the movie theatre that I had to rip back after (Age of Ultron, apparently the more intense the action movie, the faster I knit to cope.) I wasn’t even sad about the error – it was more time I got to spend with a very lovely yarn. More on that project later.

The point is that knitting is what soothes me. It’s what grants me patience and occasionally helps keep me looking like a semi-put-together human being in public.

It’s also something I do out of love for the people I love, so when casting around for something to accompany my next letter to Daphne I thought – oh I’ll knit a little something to tuck in with it. It’s too warm now for the hat I’ve promised her. It’s spring, maybe a little knitted flower? A couple maybe? That would be sweet. It will use up some of the scrap yarn I have (true) and it shouldn’t take very long (false. so false.)

So I set off to make a little knitted flower – or three. A nice bundle of three would do. I expected it to take about an evening, maybe two

It took a month.

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From not knitting the i-cord around the pipe cleaner, to reworking the shape of the petals out of fussiness (I wanted the middle one to be bigger?), this project was not remotely the straight forward little side event I thought it would be. Every time it frustrated me sufficiently I put it down, not wanting to knit those bad vibes into a gift. Frankly it’s a miracle they ever got finished. I cursed working half a dozen tiny stitches in the round, I cursed the i-cord, I cursed the little yellow stamen that took so many tries to tie properly. I cursed trying to hide all the little ends and I especially cursed the very very malleable pipe-cleaners for never bending quite as I wanted them too.

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Pictured above: tears. 

I cursed while trying to tie a ribbon around them so they looked pretty and had to resort to watching ribbon tying tutorials on Youtube. I can knit. I cannot craft, it seems.

But despite all this cursing, from beginning to end, the minute the last one was finished and they were finally tied up nicely I was awash in new FO glow. A good new finished object glow can erase everything I ever disliked about making the project, and this one was mighty strong. Look how cute they are! Adorable little blooms with their little stamen and stems. How could I possibly be frustrated with them? Every grumble I’ve listed seemed petty once I had the finished project sitting on my coffee table. These three flowers that rivalled a pair of socks in fiddly-ness, and a stockinette stitch sweater in patience were worth every bit.Screen Shot 2015-06-05 at 10.46.26 PM

So this wasn’t a project that granted patience. In fact, it seemed to try and test it at every turn. I will try not to underestimate fiddly knitting ever again (success is unlikely, but I will try). This was the flip side to my usual knitting, but in some way it makes the final product even more worth it this time.

…and after having complained so regularly about “the pipe-cleaner thing” I know that by the time they reach their recipient, they may be a little squished in the post, but they will most certainly be appreciated.

Specifications:

PatternFlower – Bloem by Saartje de Bruijn (Dutch pattern for a Dutch friend!)

YarnKnit Picks Palette scraps in Eggplant, Celadon Heather and … probably Custard, I’m not sure…

Needles: 2.5 mm dpns.

Modification: To make the larger flower: Cable cast on: 36
(p3, k1, p5, k1, p2) 3 times. Repeat this round 3 times in total
(p2, CDD, p3, CDD, p1)
begin pattern as written.

Happy Knitting!

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The Calla sweater pattern is up!

I finished my lace cardigan test knit a few weeks ago, but I’ve been delaying this post until the actual launch of the pattern! I tested the cropped version in a size small and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. Thanks to MKL for a wonderful first-test knitting experience, it was a lovely pattern and there was lots of support along the way (particularly when I didn’t understand the concept of congruent set-in sleeves…). So without further ado…here it is!

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I once considered joining the fronts, but I actually liked the lines in the end. I’m a touch self conscious of looking too skinny these days, so it sort of evens me out a little bit.

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The picot hem is a personal addition, that was easy to add into the pattern and I preferred it to the rolled sleeve.

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Once I got going with the lace it actually is very hypnotic. But, as I’ve posted about before mistakes were punished. Fortunately I made it to the end with my knitting sanity well intact and all the yarn overs in all the right places.

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It makes a nice way to wear my knitting in the summer, and so far it’s proven pretty popular with my friends. Mum even says she wants one over her own, which I’ve learned by now is actually the ultimate compliment from her on anything I make. It’s light, it’s cute, it’s feminizing, which I don’t really have in my wardrobe as much as I’d like, so that’s a plus. I imagine it would go nicely over a sundress. Of course…I’d have to own a sundress first…

Okay, time to get down to brass tacts:

Specifications!

Pattern: Calla by MKdesigns. Live today – go check it out!

Yarn: Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Tea Rose, 335 yards.

Needles: Knit flat on 40″ circulars, 3.5 mm & 4 mm. In the end I really enjoyed working with the cotton, so I guess it’s a “getting used to it” thing. In fact, I think there may even be more cotton in my future. 🙂

I modified the sleeves to include a picot hem. Instructions for the modification are as follows:

Sleeve mod: Short rowed picot hem
When armpit depth is 7” end with WS row facing.
*Work in pattern to marker, sm, k to marker,
turn (RS facing) k to marker,
turn (WS facing) p to marker,
turn (RS facing) k2tog, yo repeat until 2 stitches before marker, k2tog
turn (WS facing) facing p to marker,
turn (RS facing) k to marker,
turn (WS facing) bind off as purl stitches, do NOT cut yarn and pull through final loop. Leave that stitch on the working needle, pick up and purl three stitches along short row edge. Remove marker
Repeat from * once more
Work in pattern until the end of the WS row.
Next round (RS facing) *Work in lace pattern to marker. Pick up and knit three stitches along short row edge, remove maker.
Repeat from * once more
Work remaining stitches in lace pattern.

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Living in Lavender

I seem to be surrounded, by my own volition, by lavender related things.

There is lavender oil in my pantry, my new strategy for dealing with nightmares and sleeplessness. (The old strategy was knocking back some lorazepam, which while still at my disposal if a panic attack really gets out of hand, is kind of overkill at this point.)

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Then there’s lavender in my candles…lavender in my tea…my new favourite pen is even purple-coloured!

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Heck. There’s even lavender in my body wash. (My thanks to the good people at Aveeno for knowing my needs.)

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I’m very stressed out, apparently. I even need to stay calm while showering. Man, I wish that was a joke…

I didn’t notice the amount of lavender in my life creeping up (though it’s true enough that calming down and trying to stay calm has been the theme for the last two months…). It was probably inevitable then that I went to the yarn shop in search of something appropriate for my next project, and ended up walking out something along the lines of this:

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Four skeins whole skeins of NBK superwash merino in total. And the colourway? Lavandula. My lavender saturation is gloriously complete. This yarn has “summer lace blouse” written all over it.

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Pretty in Pink

My lace cardigan…it’s done, it’s blocked, it’s been modelled and photographed. Proper FO post to come when the pattern is launched, but for now just a sneak peek of it on the blocking board…

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The weather is finally turned nice and spring like, so there has been an explosion of pink in Toronto – mostly thanks to the cherry blossoms.

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My walks around the city now include a pretty excellent impromptu flower show, so while I wait for the official release of the pattern (hint: it may or may not be May 25th) to show you the cardigan in all it’s pink glory, have a picture of the bleeding hearts growing near Casa Loma:

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When I start to see flowers like these, I’m sure the snow is gone for good. While I enjoy a good cold winter, there is something absolutely glorious about the spring that comes after.

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Rip rip “fix” rip again

Sometimes you think a mistake doesn’t bother you…until eight rows later when it really really starts to bother you. That was the case in my current lace cardigan which I’m testing. There was a YO several rows back that just wasn’t right and seems to be stretching out larger and larger by the row.

Having already gone through and bound off the sleeves, ripping the whole thing back wasn’t really what I wanted to do if I could avoid it. It was very visible (to me) right on the front panel. It’s such a nice lace pattern all the way down and this eye sore was going to bother me for eternity. Time to fix it.

I thought I could be clever. I’d just drop down to the mistake, reknit it properly and knit back up to where I was. What I failed to consider was that the lace in this pattern is on both sides. WS rows are knit in a lace pattern just as RS rows are, and YO’s end up knit/purled and then knit/purled together on the flip side.

What I’m trying to say, is that dropping down to the mistake and trying to figure out how to fix it was only making it worse…and worse…and worse…

So, in the interest of my sanity, I eventually I ripped out the entire row to the edge of the front for six rows.

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You end up with little loops of yarn that correspond to the RS and the WS as you go back and forth. Using these, a spare cable needle, and a considerable dose of patience, I tried to knit it back up. I failed the first time because apparently I had not ripped back far enough and apparently the mistake started SEVEN rows back, not six.

Rip rip rip.

After that it was fairly straight forward to work it back up into something that I was finally happy with, and perhaps it was good that I messed it up once because it was good practice at working with the little loops to turn them back into row of (somewhat even looking…) knitting.

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Now I’m back on track, carrying on to the body portion and I have one change in mind as I keep working the pattern…lifelines. A lifeline would have made all the difference.

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The First Rule of Cotton

Okay. I confess. I’m not a big cotton knitter. Usually in the summer my knitting lapses because wool is too warm to knit when it’s 25 C and I could be swimming…

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 8.59.03 AMPictured above: definitely not knitting.

But this year I’ve become enamoured with spring/summery patterns and they cannot be knit with my classic 100% worsted weight Cascade Eco Wool (even if I have several pounds of it in my stash…). So I dived into test knitting and with that came a delightful summer cardigan and an introduction to Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece.

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Looks pretty innocent, doesn’t it?

Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece is an 80/20 cotton/wool blend and what I chose to use for my Lace Cardigan test knit. It’s nice, but I am not used to how little give cotton has. I also favour my very sharp Hiya Hiya needles above all else, which tends to split the stitches if you’re not very very careful.

First rule of cotton? Do NOT split the stitch. It will never be the same again. You can take it off and put it back on the needles properly, but it is always a little bit wonky and it drives me up the wall. If I simply used a blunter wooden needle it would probably be fine, but I am stubborn and I like my sharp pointy metal ones. So my only solution is simply: just don’t ever split the stitch.

It means I knit even slower, and the cotton is slowing me down as well because it doesn’t slide quite so easily (and apparently I’ve adapted my knitting style for yarn that slides a lot…) but I’m really enjoying the pattern, so that’s all right. Slow, for once in my life, is fine. It makes for nice, peaceful, park bench knitting…

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Slow and steady, doesn’t mess up the lace. That’s how the rhyme goes, doesn’t it?

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April Showers Bring May Flowers

Yesterday I was taken up by a need to make a knitted flower. I had the scrap yarn (Knitpicks Palette – so many little balls of fingering weight…) and some pipe cleaners from the dollar store. So I set off on a hunt through Ravelry to find a few flower patterns and Bloem was the result.

The flower part was easy enough, and I figured out on my own that a 4 stitch icord would be too narrow for my pipe cleaner, so I switched to a six stitch one and thought myself very clever. (Red flag #1 right there.) Until I got to the end and it was time to put the pipe cleaner through the icord.

I’m going to save us a lot of time here and just say it was frustrating, ridiculous, impossible, and it ended up with tears (mine) as well as a very bend out of shape person pipe cleaner. This morning, I looked at the day and realized that my project was probably doomed on account of the date (and not my poor knitterly skills) hence the crying and the utter failure. Today is the first of May. And in May, I had the good sense to knit my icord around the pipe cleaner. wpid-img_20150501_170820.jpgMuch better. Spring may come yet…

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Testing 1, 2, 3…

I’ve had a few personal designs simmering on the back-burner for a little while (and a desperate desire to re-issue my existing snowfall mittens pattern after giving it a good going-over, because it was written before I spent five years in engineering learning how to do proper technical writing…) With that in mind, I decided to look into test knitting and all it entailed. It took about two hours for me to find and fall IN LOVE with a pattern that I figure I can actually do well, and am really keen on making. So, a few things have been set aside in favour of experimenting with a new cropped cardigan. (What? It’s spring. A little startistis is part of the season. At least this has a deadline.)

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Photo courtesy of Mary Kate Long, who has been kind enough to let me test her pattern.

Unfortunately my stash was entirely composed of wool and alpaca (please pay no heed to the acrylic shoved in the back of the closet…) They don’t make for really great “summer-y” knits, especially at worsted weight. Looked like a trip to yarn store was in order. Ah, shucks. 😉

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Brown Sheep Cotton Fleece in Tea Rose. Can you tell I’m excited to get going?!

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Look what’s fresh off the needles!

My antarktis shawl is ready for blocking!

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Modelled here in my living room by my stunning Ikea dining room chair…

It looks a little small right now, but I’m assured that this is the norm and the magic of blocking will make it large and slightly less…noodle-lookin’ (I do believe that is the technical term).

The yarn was so lovely that I improvised more of the pattern once I’d reached the last 16 border rows in order to use as much of it as possible. It ended up being a very easy pattern (I don’t know why I was so intimidated by shawls before…I became so comfortable with the rhythm of this one that I was able to knit it while simultaneously watching various Marvel movies.) Kudos to Janina Kallio for such a well designed and interesting pattern. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it’s finally blocked and dried.

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