Modifcation Monday: Anthro Cardigan

This is easily one of my favourite knits of the year. In the spring my LYS held a special kind of knit-along: an indie dyer knit along! It gave me a perfect excuse to continue my affection for Lichen and Lace’s single ply fingering weight (which some of you may remember was also the yarn used in my Devil’s Backbone shawl). I decided to go with the Anthro cardigan by Polish designer Hanna Maciejewska.

Anthro Cardigan knit in Lichen and Lace

The biggest reason I picked this pattern was because the waist shaping method is to place a gorgeous cable in the small of the back. No increasing and decreasing along the sides – just a cable! And what a lovely cable to boot. I love the texture, and how it played with the handpainted yarn.knit cable as waist shaping

I made a few modifications to the original pattern. The most significant being that I took the contrast colour that is supposed to be knit on the inside of the cuff and bottom band and flipped it. The main body is knit in the colourway rainy day and the contrasting colour is calm waters. I liked the look so much that I used calm waters for the button band and the collar.

I also added an inch or so to the body after the waist shaping so the bottom hem sits exactly where I’d like to. This meant I had needed even more buttons than the ten or so required.

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I found the buttons at a local shop in the market, and the sweater requires fourteen of them. I really like the pearly-stormy look, matching right in with my sea/sky theme that is threaded through the sweater.

I made a mistake modification with the sleeves. They’re 3/4 instead of full length (on purpose, I swear!) and the cable detail on the cuff is altered to make it tighter than the original.

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Now I did that by eliminating plain knit rows between cable rows. Which wasn’t originally my intention, but once I did it, I liked it so much that I mimicked it on the other side to match.

I was so pleased with the final product that I treated myself to some new wool-wash from Eucalan’s jasmine-oil infused Wrapture. (They didn’t even pay me to say that or anything. I just adore it.) The yarn bloomed very nicely, making the sweater very soft and easily washable. My Lichen and Lace obsession continues! I’m sure this won’t be the last project with it.

Thanks to my lovely Mama for the pictures. Happy Knitting, friends!

 

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On Cancer

My mother has breast cancer.

I’ve written and deleted that sentence six or seven times by now. There’s no other way to begin this piece.

It was a bit of a shock for us, back in February when we found out. My mother is barely 51. She’s only just dipped into the age bracket where your doctor starts recommending regular mammograms. She works hard to be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. It didn’t make any sense.

Often when loved ones are facing an illness or experiencing a loss (and cancer is both, over and over and over again) we jump immediately to “What can I do?” “What can I do to make it better? What can I do to make you happy? What can I do to make things be okay? What?” It’s human nature, and it was the first thing I did. My mother, clearly prepared for this response had an answer: make playlists for when I’m bored during chemotherapy, come with me to appointments, hold my hand.

I did those things (except for the playlists, sorry Mum, but we both know that was busy work anyways…), and many more things. Being a knitter, if you say the words “chemotherapy” to me, my first thought is always going to be  “cap, you need a cap.”

That is a thing I can do. I’ll do that.

I poked around Ravelry until I found the pattern I wanted. Knitty had done a breast cancer awareness mini-issue,  in which there was a hat pattern designed specifically as a chemo cap: Shedir. I went to the yarn shop for hugs and reassurance and some Cascade Ultra Pima in a flattering colour. Blue, obviously. I cast on.

I didn’t know that this would become one of the most difficult things I’ve ever made.

On the surface, it shouldn’t have been. I’ve knit lots of hats for adults and children alike. There weren’t any new techniques for me. It took less than 200 yards of a cotton sport-weight yarn. It’s a well-written pattern that I didn’t plan on altering. Simple.

knit chemotherapy capI knit, frogged, and re-knit the brim three times, trying to get the perfect fit for a head that wasn’t bald yet, but would be. I tried to think instead about how pretty the cable pattern would be or how the colour would compliment her eyes. But all I could think every time I picked it up was: “Cancer. My mother has cancer. I’m making this because she has cancer. My Mum is going to lose her hair during chemotherapy. Which she needs because she has a rare and aggressive cancer. Fuck.”

I’m the kind of knitter who worries about knitting “bad vibes” into a gift, despite being a scientist who doesn’t actually believe in such nonsense. I wondered if maybe I could knit my worry into a hat. I started taking deep breaths whenever I’d start a row, letting my thoughts be whatever they naturally were, but not panicking about them. Honestly, it’s the only way I made it past the brim.

Whenever I worked on it, I thought about what the cap represented. What it meant. And instead of this being a negative thing, it turned out to be very important for me. It slowed me down enough to let me process what was happening on my own time and in my own way.hand knit chemotherapy cap

I ripped back even the smallest error and corrected it. I spent several weeks picking it up and putting it down. Acceptance of the situation – and I mean a true, deep acceptance – took time and more than a few false starts. That’s okay. It’s all a part of the process.*

*ack, I sound like my therapist.

By the time it was finished, I decided the hat was probably more a gift for me than for my Mum, who wears it to humour me, but prefers her collection of peaked hats. Or just going about bald (to be fair, she’s a very attractive bald lady. Seriously. She has, like, a perfect head). But making it let me process everything, as well as feel like I was helping out at a time when there wasn’t much to do.

After weeks and weeks chemotherapy, which she handled well, came surgery. Just a week post-surgery she agreed to model her hat for me.

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(she’d probably like me to mention at this point that she’s not actually that large around the middle, but that she still has post-surgery tubing under her shirt. I tried to crop out most of it Mum, I swear!)

Adversity can bring out the worst in people, but it can also bring out the best. It’s certainly brought out the best in her friends and family, all of whom have been incredibly loving and supportive. It brought out the best in my yarn friends who checked in on me, and in my bosses who graciously covered for me so that I could spend a few weeks at home with her. There is still a bit of a road ahead. However. If there ever was a person more capable of beating this than my mother, I’ve yet to meet them. I’m in awe and very proud of her.

“When you’re going through Hell, keep going!”

Good luck with the second half of your journey, Mum.

I love you.

Nicole

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Spring means handknit skirts!

Knitting skirts (or pants, more on that later…)  is a strange business. Handknit fabric usually doesn’t stand up well to the type of wear we put on our skirts and comes with a high risk of sagging in a rather…unflattering way.

Enter: The Lanesplitter Skirt by Tina Whitmore.

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It’s also now warm enough for impromptu photography on the balcony. Hurrah! 

Alternating between two balls of Noro Kureyon gives a pretty wild look, that adds a heavy dose of colour to my otherwise very neutral wardrobe.

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All my favourite colours in one skirt. Yes, please.

I went down a needle size and used a 50/50 wool/acrylic blend to create a small waistband at the top. The 2×2 ribbing  is stretchy enough that there was no need for an elastic band to hold it in place. I’ve worn this skirt from morning until night, and it doesn’t shift or ride up – for which I’m very grateful! It was deliberately made as a high waisted mini-skirt and I only ended up using three balls of Noro for a 27″ waist.

The Lanesplitter skirt is knit on the bias as one large rectangle, which is then seamed at the end. Because of this structure it doesn’t sag very easily, if at all. There are many variations on the pattern that allow for seamless construction, but I kind of like the seam look. Adds to the effect, in my opinion. Plus it makes this pattern a dead simple knit.

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Typically I fashion it with my shirt OVER the waistband instead of tucked in.

The only really downside to this skirt is that it must be worn with leggings, for both length and texture reasons. I find the yarn too rough to wear directly against my skin, so tights or leggings are a must. I decided that since it was always going to be worn over something, I could get away with knitting a shorter length which was more flattering and I don’t have to worry about it being more revealing than I’d like.

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A new wardrobe staple.

If you’re nervous about making a knit skirt, I definitely recommend this pattern. It was done as the winter KAL (knit-along) at my local yarn shop, Yarns Untangled. I got to see it in person on all shapes and sizes and it’s flattering on absolutely everyone! You can go in for bright colourways, or more neutral shades and it’s still gorgeous.

Until next time, happy knitting everyone!

 

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New: Ffrench Twists

Ffrench Twists is a bulky weight hat inspired by the work of natural dyer Caitlin Ffrench. The pattern is knit in the round and the texture from the twisted stitches make it nice for showcasing variegated yarns. Top it off with a floppy pom-pom and you are good to go!

Ffrench Twists

Ffrench Twists is available on Ravelry and on my pattern page for $3.00 CAD. Happy Stitching!

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FO: Zauberball Socks

Technically it’s November 1st, but I think it still counts as a Socktober win. One pair of plain vanilla socks in Schoppel-Wolle’s Crazy Zauberball!  

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The yarn is so interesting by itself that I didn’t want to add a stitch pattern into the mix. The colours don’t repeat, so I have fraternal socks instead of identical twins.

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They’re soft even before blocking, so I have a feeling these ones are going to be worn a lot. The fact that they’re a combo of my favourite colours doesn’t hurt either.

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The next sock mission? Two at a time socks! Now I just need the right yarn…

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Knitting A Sock Is Not Like Riding A Bicycle

If you haven’t done it in five years, it’s probably best look up some instructions. I needed a travel project so I cast on a pair of socks using this awesome German yarn by Schoppel-Wolle called Crazy Zauberball, which translates literally to “Crazy Magic Ball.” It’s two ply and each strand changes colour periodically. I know. I know. I’m over the moon.

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So over the moon in fact, that I was halfway down the cuff before I thought to myself:

“I have absolutely no idea what the next step is. At all.”

Fortunately the internet is full of basic sock tutorials (some good, some appallingly terrible. I could practically feel Kate Atherley facepalming at a few websites that do not deserve a single bit of traffic from me.) Away from home it was HGTV, of all places, that reminded me how to do a heel flap. I do love a good sturdy slipped stitch heel. Once I was back at home I had time to consult the expert herself:

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Custom Socks to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley

This book is GOLD. Every technique you could want, tips, patterns, math (the math is the best part for me, as usual), EVERYTHING. I may never pick up another sock book again, because I might never need to. Please don’t ask me about this book in public because I will gush to an embarrassing degree about it. It’s a book I can point to and say: I wish one day to write a resource for knitters that is as amazing as this.

You know, it also reminded me how to turn a heel properly and I’m grateful for that, too.

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There is something about the three-dimensional magic of a well executed sock heel that cannot be captured by a two-dimensional picture on my instagram, not matter which filter I use. I may be too sick to get out of bed, but darn it, I can make a sock.

See what I did there?

I’ll show myself out.

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Knitting Withdrawal

I’ve spent the last month working on a deadline project and then suddenly, as of lunchtime yesterday, it’s gone. My portion is finished. Even the remaining yarn is gone, save for the scrap of yarn I found this morning beside my bed. (That I totally didn’t have any difficulty throwing away. Nope. Not me.)

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This photo from my instagram is making me nostalgic already. Um. Yeah.

Several hundred thousands tiny stitches (I did the math because…because of course I did) and some – possibly permanently – stained fingers later, it’s all over.

So I’m drinking my coffee and looking around me going…what…what now? I’m going to be taking on some more serious design projects shortly, but I didn’t plan on starting until I’d had a bit of a knitting break. I have a considerable amount of brain fog right now, which doesn’t pair nicely with red wine OR pattern design. I ought to take a break.

But my hands are not having it. Despite the fact that my right wrist might be very slightly strained from knitting eight hours a day for the last few weeks (Don’t look at me like that, I knit slower than I thought…) all I can think about is knitting something. Anything. Now.

Friends, it’s been 24 hours and instead of taking a well earned break, I am in full blown knitting withdrawal. I can’t watch a TV show. I can’t have a rest. I can’t talk on the phone, not with idle hands. If you need me, I’ll be perusing my stash for a suitable rebound project. Suggestions welcome. Wish me luck.

Nicole

P.S. The Weekly Round Up – for those of you that have missed them – will be back this week!

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The Weekly Round Up: Loop 10, Champagne Shawls and Awesome Charity Knitters

What a quick week! I blinked and it flew by!

Freshly Plucked Patterns

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Brand new this week is Loop 10. This book of twelve patterns celebrating ten years of Loop, London and features many of the designers they worked with over the years. It’s available for pre-order now.

Also new this week is the Golden Square Shawl by Jennifer Batt. I had the pleasure of seeing this beauty in person and it sort of reminds me of chainmail. If chainmail were champagne coloured, 100% silk, and squishy…

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Photo (c) Jennifer Batt

It’s available for free on Ravelry so if you’re looking for a simple and lovely shawl pattern, check it out.

Knitting in the News

After the devastating news out of Virginia this week, I had a lot of trouble looking at news articles about knitting circles and projects. Instead of seeing the stories they were telling, I was seeing the young reporters behind them. Instead of being able to focus on what they were talking about, I was hit by grief. This week’s section of Knitting in the News is dedicated to the memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. The vast majority of news stories about knitters isn’t hard hitting journalism, but necessary fluff-pieces done by young journalist that reminds us humanity isn’t always horrific, but mostly full of kind and generous people. So in the interest of highlighting the kind and generous stories these journalist tell I dove into the headlines of knitterly goodwill the world over. Here are some of my favourites:

Knitters in Germany spent last weekend covering old diesel locomotives with knitted objects to turn them into symbols of peace in a movement called Knitting For Peace. In the US twelve seniors have made over one hundred knit and crochet items since January to donate to women and children in need through organizations such as WomenRising and Hope House. In England one mother’s vision has turned into an organization of over 2500 people knitting baby clothing for premature babies (who are often too small for conventional clothing) and distributing the packages containing miniature cardigans, hats, gloves, and socks to care units in over 150 hospitals across the UK.  Male prisoners in New Zealand are knitting blankets for abandoned pets, providing both a rewarding activity for the inmates as well as vital supplies to the local Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals who say they are very grateful for the help.

The world over knitters are reaching out in their communities to help others. Do you do any charity knitting in your community? As winter approaches, I’m looking at increasing my efforts on that front. Hopefully I’ll have some projects to show you soon.

Random Things I Did This Week

My birthday was this week so I decided to treat myself to some birthday yarn! I’d been eyeing Riverside Studio’s Merino Cashmere Sock for some time, and finally bought myself some. I do have an idea of what I’d like to make with it down the road, (coughBLAMshawlcough), but for right now it’s just decorating my apartment shelf and looking all purdy…

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Colourway: “Morning” If I were to have a crush on yarn, this would be it.

That’s all for this week. Happy Knitting everyone!

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The Weekly Round Up: Custom Socks, Texture is the New Black and Knitting: a more deadly activity than last week.

Another edition of “what caught my attention in the knitting world this week.”

Freshly Plucked Patterns

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Custom Socks: Knit to Fit Your Feet by Kate Atherley came out this week. I fancy myself a reasonably competent sock knitter, but this one really grabbed my attention. The initial reviews are glowing, the author is a genius, and the pictures look amazing. Definitely one for my birthday wish list (did I mention it’s tomorrow?)

This amazing pattern collection also caught my eye this week:

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Texture is The New Black by Melanie Berg contain five different knits. The sneak peeks on her instagram have been teasing me for weeks, so I’m really glad to see the patterns go live. The collection contains two sweaters (one pull over, one cardigan), a shawl and a hat/fingerless mitts set. The Risen cardigan in particular makes me very excited. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go lengthen my Ravelry queue…

Knitting in the News

This concept for a bio-knit shoe using knit fabric with polymer yarns could make a shoe that’s 100% recyclable! A group of knitters in Oregon are knitting purple baby hats to raise awareness for shaken baby syndrome. Knitting needles are apparently really, really dangerous, particularly if you accidentally impale yourself with one. There is even a three digit identifying code for “knitting and crochet related injuries” among paramedics. Dude.

ANYWAYS, in MUCH HAPPIER NEWS, an organization in Pakistan called the Rawalpindi’s Darakhshan Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre for Women with Disabilities is having great success in helping people with visual impairments learn to knit and giving them a new way to make a living. Round of applause for an amazing organization!

Random Things I Did This Week

Hey! I finally got to unpacking my yarn stash after my move! Check out its happy new storage space. I sort my stash mostly by weight: lace weight on the top and bulky on the bottom. Living in a studio apartment means there is no space to hid away the yarn. Luckily I experience zero stash shame syndrome, so my response to comments like “that’s a lot of yarn, Nicole,” is a cheery, “not really!”
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I also earn myself a Liebster award so check out this post if you want to know some random facts about me. It is very very warm  this week so there was considerable knitting in cotton for most of it. More details about that project later. The aran weight wool hat that I planned on knitting up for the end of August is making me sweat just looking at it. Perhaps something for a later time…

I’ve also started a secret sample knit that should occupy me for the next month. Stay tuned for a menagerie of vague comments and the odd sneak peek shot. 😉

Hope you guys had a great week. Happy Knitting!

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Review of Sockupied Fall 2015

I was invited to review the Fall 2015 issue of Sockupied by the lovely Amy Palmer. Here is what you need to know!

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What is it?

This Sockupied issue contains six original sock patterns as well as some interest stories, including one about designer Debbie O’Neill and a piece on the history of sock knitting in Russia. The patterns are moderate to advanced in difficulty as far as sock knitting goes, and feature some really interesting colour work, textures, and constructions. The patterns might be a bit daunting for a brand new sock knitter, but for any established sock knitters out there this might be exactly the thing to spice up your pattern collection. There doesn’t seem to be a theme to the issue (unless the theme is “yarn colours Nicole finds personally offensive”) but the lack of theme kind of works. Not everything needs to be thematically connected, and what it means is six very different and unique patterns. So, along those lines, let’s talk…

Patterns

The backbone of any knitting publication is the patterns. This issue of Sockupied contains six sock patterns from various designers including Kate Atherley and Debbie O’Neill. What makes me excited to buy a pattern book is often the opportunity to experiment with new techniques and here the issue is really great. In terms of colour work you have the electrostatic lines socks (featured on the cover), as well as these checkers socks.

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Okay, so I am never going to love that colour combination, but those are some seriously rockin’ socks. The back of the leg, heel and sole are all worked flat, and then joined with the front of the sock. Colour me impressed. Pun absolutely intended. I personally would buy the book just to learn how to do that, but that’s me.

There are some texture based patterns including the walking in the woods socks, the riband socks and the hominy socks. The hominy socks are a little simpler, for those of you looking for something more straight forward.

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My personal favourite are the Gladys Thompson socks by Kate Atherley. Inspired by classic Gansey stitch patterns, the look is classic and not too busy (a.k.a. I will actually wear them.)

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Aesthetic

Sometimes the appeal of something (yarn) is in what it looks like (yarn) or feels like (yarn) to you. I have bought pattern books on occasion solely because they were very beautiful, and I wanted to be able to flip through them for inspiration. Photography plays a big role here, as does layout. The photography of the book is good, but not knock-your-socks-off groundbreaking. I will say this though: the layout is excellent. If you are the sort that likes to print off your patterns, a clear effort has been put in to make them very easy to follow and printer friendly. A tip of my cap to whoever was responsible for that, very well done. Bonus points as well for the glossary at the back explaining the some of the techniques.

The Verdict

Let’s get down to brass tacts, is this something worth your $11.99? If you are an avid sock knitter that likes trying new things, or are looking to dive back into sock knitting with something exciting, this issue is absolutely worth it.  I would caution beginners away from it, unless you are particularly ambitious (and patient with yourself). Overall it’s a very solid collection and the side articles were interesting and well written. If you are interested, you can purchase the issue from Interweave Knits here.

Do you like to knit socks? Have any sock projects lined up for this coming autumn? Let me know in the comments. Happy Knitting!

**Please note that all photography in this post is credited to Sockupied/Harper Point Photography**

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