Some of the great minds in Toronto knitting have been taking about swatching, and I don't mean me. Funny thing was, I was on a swatching spree whilst this conversation was happening on Twitter. Kate and Steph, aka WiseHilda and The Yarn Harlot took apart the myths of swatching in a great thread and exposed the knitter's dirtiest secret: swatching is important. Knitters know it and most of us treat it like flossing one's teeth: they get that we all should do it, but most don't do it all the time, some don't do it at all.
For the record, I came around to daily flossing about ten years ago and almost never miss a day. I feel gross if I don't floss my teeth.
I haven't yet come around to feeling the same way about swatching.
I know the reasons:
- To make a sweater that fits
- To see how the yarn behaves at the pattern gauge
- To test stitch patterns, colours etc.-- if I hate the swatching process, I'll hate knitting the project.
- To figure out if I have enough yarn to make the project
- To avoid the anguish of any of the above.
All good reasons, all the bran of knitting. All good for you. Yep. Yawn.
That being said, I discovered this weekend it's not all that bad to do. I knew that, but sometimes I have to do it again to remember.
I decided it was time to figure out my Rhinebeck sweater and to knit from stash. I had some patterns in mind and some yarn I want to use and needed to see what fit in terms of gauge and design. I started with Lorna's Laces Shepherd Worsted in Brick. This is pretty and somewhat precious yarn that's been waiting for the right project. One ball was attacked by moths and was living in the freezer. I took it out and just knit with 5mm needles to see what would happen.
Here it is washed (washing your swatch is essential since water can change the yarn and I expect you will wash the project at some point).
I got really smart and attached a note so I know what I did. It's a fine swatch but I found the fabric too loose. That disqualified it from a few project ideas.
The bottom was knit on 6mm needles and was too loose to get gauge so I did a line of garter and went down to 5mm needles. That worked and stayed consistent after washing. I also swatched the brioche stitch which is integral to the pattern and got gauge there too. Swatching also made me warm up to the yarn and colour. It's a mix of greys and blues that I dubbed Stormy Seas. It'll make a pretty Oshima.
Then I thought it might be too hot to wear that sweater at Rhinebeck so I went back to the orange yarn and swatched in pattern for Brandied Cherry. The designer, Thea Colman does a great job explaining what to do if you want to substitute yarns including swatching the cables, thinking about the weight of the finished sweater and ease.
Up to the marker I used a 4.5mm needle and realized it was too tight so I went up to a 5mm needles. I like the cables so decided to focus on the twisted rib which is the pattern needed to establish gauge and worked on that until I was satisfied. I'm a tad worried I won't have enough yarn for the size I plan on making but that is another post!
You will notice that I'm a lazy swatcher. I do four inches to get stitch gauge but fudge my row gauge. I should stop doing that. One day it will cause me problems.
Thank the Internet for things like Tour de Fleece. Without it I would never get the nudge I need to spin the small stash of fibre I have and keep my wheels from getting dusty.
I really like to spin. I just like to knit more and I confess I get this weird anxiety about making MORE yarn when I have a huge stash already (somehow fibre itself doesn't seem to produce these feelings; I suspect it's a defence mechanism). It's also because some of this yarn seems unusable because of the quantity, colour, or how I spun it. I do better when I set out to spin for socks or a sweater even though I rather like setting up the wheel and letting the fibre and my mood determine the outcome. I guess that's what happens when a product knitter meets a process spinner...
This year I took a relaxed approach to the Tour and didn't even spin everyday, but I make three skeins I love.
The first involved finishing a project I started this winter. Indigodragonfly Pandabaa 50% merino, 50% tencel in Abstract Repressionism.
The undyed bits did nifty things to the coloured parts and it was fantastic to spin. I went for a long draw two ply with maximum squoosh. This will make a great hat.
The last project was singles. And it was a continuation of something I started...a while ago. I don't actually remember when. The fibre is good old "wool top", cheap and cheerful for a project like this where I can't predict how it will go.
I spun up 100grams of this before and made some nice bulky yarn. So now I had to make the second braid look the same. My advice: don't do this many months later.
It worked out pretty well, though. I had the same problem as the last time. The yarn was too twisty so I had to run it through the wheel the opposite way to remove some twist.
I over handled the yarn when I washed it and it felted more than the first skein. I wanted to felt it a bit so it would stay together, but I over did it. It won't show in a cowl (especially with a stitch pattern) so I'm happy with the result. Blue strings is this year, pink strings the older yarn.
I rather like spinning a bulky single. I think this is a good use for those pretty braids of many colours.
Now my plan is to knit up the pink and green and try to spin a bit more often and knit up more of what I spin. At least until something else catches my fancy!
Xander is a growing boy who likes handknit socks.
And has a nostalgic mother. (OMG he's so cute!)
Actually Xander is a giant teen who really likes handknits socks and has a mother who is happy to knit for him because he's so appreciative. Even for a 13 year old who is 5'9" and growing and has size 12 feet and a huge instep.
Non-knitters: This is what motherly love looks like.
Xander noticed his last pair of socks were too small and asked to be next in the sock queue. I wanted to knit socks and asked him to choose from my stash. He chose Into the Whirled, The 'Verse colourway.
I loved his choice.
I started knitting. I decided on top down (so I had control over the heel and could lengthen the foot if needed in the future). I also went with a 2x2 ribbed cuff to work with growing, but still skinny legs.
I thought it was all going so well. I added an extra inch to the heel flap compared to the last pair I knit for him. Xander has a HUGE instep and I knew from Kate's wise counsel (and fabulous books) that a bigger heel flap means a bigger gusset and more stitches to decrease at the instep.
I was impressed with myself that I THOUGHT this through and had a PLAN.
Turns out I still think my baby is baby sized:
He can't even get his foot in. Crap.
We talked and I said I could rip back to the heel flap and try again or I could keep these for me (or Emma who is eyeing them hungrily) and he could have the next pair. And if he didn't like anything in my stash we would go and buy something especially for him.
Xander was sad but then made an excellent point: he is growing. Fast and often. He doesn't wear socks in the summer. It would be better to keep these for me and make his next so they would be done when he was ready to wear them.
And I get some kick-ass socks. (Already on the second one).
I now have two kids in high school.
Xander graduated from grade 8. And he looked sharp doing it.
Grade 8 grad has turned into quite a THING, especially for the girls and most kids are DRESSED to the hilt. Xander has grown about 5 inches this year and needed clothes, but is a practical kid who prizes comfort over most things and chose this fantastic ensemble. It was a jillion degrees in the auditorium, and so being one of the only kids in shorts made him the smartest grad in the room.
The ceremony was...fine (I'm going to leave it at that--search my twitter if you really need to know). My son got his certificate and had a night to celebrate with his friends. This is the time where the kids part ways and go to different high schools so it's good they had a day-long boat cruise in Lake Ontario to play and a ceremony where proud parents can take lots of pictures.
I'm super proud of you Xanderman--you worked really hard this year and made the honour roll for the first time. High school will be hard work but will also be lots of fun if you keep being the awesome teen you are now.
Permit me to brag about my kid for a moment...
I have a new sweater! And I'm feeling like my knitter-self again!
The formula seems to be a fantastic yarn (Indigodragonfly Uber Mergoat in Squid Viscious and Already Frogged) and a pattern with a little bit of challenge but not too much: Carnaby Street. Stripes seem to make the knitting go faster.
I had a few bumps along the way, including the fact that I forgot to plan my body and sleeve stripes so they would match when I seamed them, meaning I had to rip and re knit the caps, but overall it was an easy, fun, fast knit.
I ended up with the comfortable boxy sweatshirt style I wanted and I'm happy! I plan to spend the long weekend snuggled up with it in a semi-reclined position as often as possible.
Especially because it's a wee bit buggy at the cottage right now (the photo shoot was a bit silly).
This is my cousin Chantal. She's 16 and pretty fantastic.
Her and Emma are BFFs even though they only see each other a few times a year (though they keep up with all the Instagram posts and SnapChats they send).
Chantal entered a contest to win a semester studying abroad and made the top 10. The kid with the most votes by Monday will be the Ambassador of Awesome for Blyth Academy for three months travelling to interesting places and seeing some of the world.
Can you take a moment and vote for Chantal? Maybe even once a day. It would be amazing for her to win and I know she'd appreciate the votes. (And you can vote without giving up your Facebook/Twitter/Google credentials--just give it a second to load).
What a difference a weekend away with friends and wine and lots of yarn makes.
Especially the friends and the yarn (which I might have rolled in a wee bit--Keri is demonstrating for photographic purposes, but I also participated).
This winter seemed to be a series of minor knitting disasters which I chalk up to a combination of lack of inspiration and just plain old tiredness from overwork. Now Spring is here, I'm getting more exercise (I'm back on my bike and back to a sensible running program), and I have some pretty new yarn to serve as inspiration.
I'm making Carnaby Street--a comfy, loose spring sweater with kicky stripes and a bit of fun knitting.
After much fussing with a more neutral palette, I chose the colours that beckoned me the minute I saw them: Indigodragonfly Uber-MerGoat in Squid Vicious (blue) and Already Frogged (green).
It's tricky to photograph, but this one is about right. The colours are bright but not crazy. Just like me ;)
I'm so much back to knitting: the back is done and I'm at the armholes on the front in a mere two weeks.
This yarn is FANTASTIC. Soft, pretty, easy to knit with. Read about the MerGoats here (they're special). I'm actually thinking of how possible it would be to have this sweater finished this weekend (I'm so back, I'm delusional).
I think I'll consider more of this yarn at the Knitter's Frolic. That's more realistic.
Oh ya, I'm even spinning a bit. I took poor Imogene out of my room where she has been stashed since the kitchen renovation and started on some pretty fibre. I remembered why I bought the Little Gem--it's a sweet wheel.
Feels good to be back doing the stuff I love.
I'm happy to report two finished objects that I am rather pleased with.
I finally finished the <="" a="">Willow and Oz knee socks I started in October.<="" a="">
Randomly striped knee socks are definitely nifty, but these were a slog. I think it was the knitting with two balls of yarn. Not portable and a bit fiddly.
Emma loves them and that makes me happy. The colours are fantastic: Indigodragonfly merino sock in My world is all askew and Hootenanny: Well it's chock full of hoot, just a little bit of nanny.
And yesterday I finished something nice for me:
Sweetums fingerless mitts in beautiful Indigodragonfly merino silk. This is not a colour I would pick for myself. That the nice thing about clubs. They push you outside of your normal boundaries. Now that they're done I love them. The colour is so pretty (top photo is more accurate; it's hard to photograph your own hands).
These were the ones I stumbled on a few weeks back. Once I got over that it was smooth sailing and for a little bit I felt like I had my knitting groove back.
They're very warm and cozy. And sadly, still needed. Actually, it was too cold to wear them today.
I think I'm going to stick with some small things, it feels good to finish some pieces that I'm happy with.
This winter has not been a great one for me knitting-wise. I've made a few accessories that were just okay, but not much else, and I haven't had a project that really grabbed me.
Well, I shouldn't say that because working on Oshima was pretty great. Until it wasn't.
I think I need a knitting win.
Knocking off a quick WIP was the plan last week. The kids were at my Mom's for the March Break (and yes, it was fantastic), I had all of season two of House of Cards to watch and plenty of Indiodragonfly Smart Ass Knitters/World Domination one skein projects to choose from. I got back to the Caulking arm/leg warmers and got to it.
I finished the first one and dove into the second one. Then I took a little break and started the Sweetums fingerless mitts. All was good.
Until it wasn't.
Apparently I can't read. I missed an entire line in the Sweetums pattern and didn't notice until 48 rows later when I couldn't figure out where to put the thumb. I was silly enough to write to the designer and it wasn't until she explained it that I noticed I missed the line in the pattern.
While Sweetums was working itself out I finished both House of Cards and the second armwarmer. Tried them on, did the photo shoot and then noticed something wasn't quite right.
The second armwarmer was a full repeat (8 sts) bigger than the first one. (No I didn't write down what size I was making, who does that?!).
I actually turned off the tv and counted the repeats on the first one twice to confirm the number: 56. When I was casting on, I distinctly remember doing the math in my head as I distributed the stitches on the dpns. 16 per needle. Because 16x4 is totally 56.
Except it's 64.
Twelve inches, ripped out. I casted it on properly and it's in the travel knitting pouch. I'll get back to it.
Sweetums is coming along very nicely. Almost done the first one.
I hope this goes smoothly now. I'm tired of so many mess ups of the easy things that I've been doing most of my life like reading and counting.
I have to face facts. I'm not going to have enough of my special over dyed cork to make Oshima. The yarn was specially over dyed so there is no more. I've been hoarding it because I love Cork and the colour is so fabulous.
Finding this out earlier (or rather, getting past my denial earlier) would have been nice since I have the sleeves done and am almost at the neck shaping on the body.
Instead of abandoning it completely I'm thinking I could make a plainer sweater. I love the brioche stitch but find it too stiff with the Cork at this gauge and it EATS yarn. I also have 3 skeins of orange cork that I could use too.
I figure these are my options:
Option 1: knit on and use the orange cork in the cowl. I could still be short of yarn and this colour combo could look weird.
Option 2: rip back the brioche stitch on the body work the body in stockinette to generally conform to the pattern, knit the collar in brioche or even just rib I lose some of the design but get a big cozy sweater.
Option 3: put the the whole thing in a bag and put it away. Next Fall find another pattern for the cork (probably a Custom Fit) and find another yarn for Oshima (this pattern is fantastic). To console myself, immediately cast on something that I know will work.
Right now I'm voting for option 3. Especially the casting on part.
Thoughts? I think I need some knitter perspective.
Guess who's finally coming to Toronto?
She's a knitter
She's an author
She's one of the original knit bloggers
She's fun, and fantastic and I love her to death...
Rachael Herron!!!!! (muppet flail)
I'm pretty sure this was the last time I saw Rachael--Rhinebeck 2009--which seems too long ago!
I can't wait to get inside this book. I know Rachael is really proud of this one.
If you haven't read Rachael's Cypress Hollow books, you should have a look at those. That series turned me into a person who reads romance novels. They were happy, funny, light-hearted, engaging stories with some fine, steamy love scenes.
I think we owe it to her as readers and knitters, to show her a good time while she visits Toronto. Who's with me?!
I've been thinking about my poor forgotten blog a lot lately. I have no intention of giving it up, even if no one reads it. I've been writing here for 10 years and still like the process of coming here and writing a few things, marking moments in my life with photos, cataloging my fibre-pursuits and the emphemera of my life.
The sad thing is that when there's too much going on, I don't have the time (or more rightly the energy) to compose a post, upload and edit the photos and contribute to the space that means a lot to me.
In the last month there's been more time spent on work than is normal and than I like and it's been duties that take a lot of mental effort on my part. Sadly it's sapping my energy to even knit some nights, so instead I read tweets or mindlessly play spell tower which makes me feel even less ready to face another work day. The weather has been cramping my small desire to exercise, another blow to morale.
This weekend, I did some fun things and hope they'll recharge my energy levels and get me moving both physically and emotionally. I went skiing for the first time in 20 years and it was fun! I've only skiied half a dozen times and i was expecting a minor disaster. Instead I had a great time and I'm not even very sore. The kids and Craig tried snowboarding and we all got plenty of fresh air and time away from the pressures of work and school.
There's no pictures--we were all too busy! But here's one from our Sunday walk out on a frozen Lake Simcoe.
(I posted a few more on Instagram--I'm docsteph)
I used to think I didn't like winter, but now I realize I don't like typical grey soggy damp Toronto winters. That bright snow and blue sky were so gorgeous.
Let's not be so crazy as to believe I don't want this one to end; another week of really cold temperatures, no biking and little motivation to run isn't what I want. But having the chance to be out doing fun things in the snow is pretty fantastic and got me back here to write a bit.
Now I'm going to cast on the body of a sweater. Let's see of I can get my knitting groove back too.
Not a good way to start the morning:
I must have been a bit rough when I was putting on my beloved Grey Mist Bohus. I heard a bad ripping sound and it looked like this.
It was knit top down and I had broken the yarn on the hem bind off. Some stitches had started to unravel.
To add to the complexity, I had modified the sweater awhile back to fit me better and the sides are steeked. This means I couldn't just rip back the whole bind off and do it again.
I will also say that at 9 sts to the inch that didn't seem necessary to fix 2 inches of hem, so I concocted a different plan.
This morning I made the repairs. It was easy enough that I took the time to have fun with the Halftone app and did a little photo essay.
Step One: Capture all the stitches.
Bohus yarn is 50% merino, 50% angora so the stitches aren't really going anywhere, but I needed them all on needles so I could have something to work with. I put the last bound off stitch on a marker and picked up everything not worrying if they had unravelled more than others. I just needed to get everything on the needles.
Step Two: Fix All the Stitches
Now I took the time to arrange all the live stitches, knit up any that had dropped and to make sure I got them all. This is not so easy with tiny fuzzy yarn, so I made sure I was thorough.
Step Three: Unravel the Bind Off a Bit More
I didn't have a lot of yarn on one end of the broken bit so I unpicked the bind off about 10 more stitches so I had something to work with. Since I was "going backwards" this meant undoing the stitches manually with a tapestry needle and catching the live ones before I pulled out the yarn--no sense in having to wrangle more live stitches.
Then I transferred each stitch back to the left hand needle, checked again that I didn't miss anything and was now back at my orange marker.
Step Four: Attach New Yarn
I decided to use the Magic Knot to attach my new yarn to bind off. It figured at this gauge it wouldn't show. It was also secure. Spit splicing would also have worked.
Step Five: Bind Off
The original bind off was a regular one, but since this must be where I put pressure on the sweater when I put it in, I decided to use Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind Off for these stitches just to be on the safe side.
When that was done I had two ends. The end of my new bind off and the end where I picked out the old one.
Since both ends were already secure (picking out the old one was challenging so I figured it was staying put), I just prettied it up and wove in the ends.
Step Six: Admire
No one will notice unless they inspect the hem up close.
If anyone does that, I'll know they're a knitter.
Pssst, have you heard about Custom Fit?
I just finished my first custom sweater and it's pretty fantastic.
While I haven't said anything about actually knitting this sweater, it's mostly because from a knitting perspective that makes this remotely interesting. But now that it's done, I thought I should give a quick review of custom fit by Amy Herzog because this sweater is a perfect fit!
One of the great things about my job is my employer's committment to developing a family-friendly workplace. They've moved away from the term work-life balance because its difficult to define and somewhat personal, but it's still something they value. Not everyone is personnally good at finding that balance, but my university has a lot of structures in place which tell me they acknowledge that I have a life outside of work and I should have time to spend doing other things that I love, with whomever I define as my family.
Shutting down for two weeks around the Christmas holiday is one manifestation of that commitment. Two full weeks off, with pay... and it was fantastic. A bit of Christmas stuff and a whole lot of lazy time. I knit, I spun, I watched a lot of Damages on Netflix, saw some movies at home and in the theatre, slept late, cooked, even cleaned and I hung out with my family who also took advantage of the time off and relaxed. We spent more days in our pyjamas than in clothes. It was perfect.
It's a privilege to have such leisurely time, and I also think it's important to just hang out sometimes since our usual life pattern is to be on the go--work, school, activities, homework, housework, obligations etc. I was happy not to get through my super ambitious Winter Break To Do List in favour of just letting the days take me where I wanted them to go. I was almost ready to go back to work this morning now that I'm rested and feeling good.
Except for the getting up part. Early mornings are early. And it's cold out. The whole family successfully got back into the groove of everyday life. But we're still kinda wishing for a snow-day.
I love Ravelry. Not only does it keep me organized but it gives me data. I love data.
For example: I have a lot of yarn. 56,268 meters worth. That doesn't include yarn being used in WIPs because Ravelry knows that it's spoken for (at least for the moment, I have a few WIPs that need reconsideration).
Do I have less yarn than last year? Not sure. I think the spreadsheet with that information is on my work computer so I'll have to check when I'm back next week. (By the way, two weeks off at Christmas is amazing...by far the best benefit of my job).
I do strive for stash equilibrium whereby I knit as much as I purchase or spin and therefore don't make more stash. I'm pretty sure I'm close to last year's number and not near the over 60km I've had in the past, so that's something.
As for what I did accomplish knitting/weaving/spinning wise...it was a fine year.
3 hats (one that never made it to Ravelry)
1 pair armwarmers
1 pair of knee socks
I even managed to spin some yarn (but not very much!)
I don't generally set crafty goals because I want to use that time freely and work on what strikes me as fun, motivating, challenging, easy or whatever it is that I need from my fibre pursuits. Everyone in the family needs socks so I will try to work on some plain ones so no one's feet are cold and I could really use a new hat, but otherwise, I'll keep working on things that please me at the time. It's a luxury to have the time and resources to have something like that in my life and I'm not going to mess with it.
I bet some of you have knitting goals. I always like to hear them if you want to share.
I don't think I'm a very introspective person. I don't tend to look back on the year that has gone by on December 31st and assess if it was good or bad. Time passes, lots happens and while I don't doubt that some years can be very good and others might be very bad, I tend to think in smaller chunks of time. Maybe it's because nothing has been bad enough to ruin a whole year and that makes me quite lucky indeed.
But since it is December 31st and I decided to take a moment to blog, I can say, 2013 was good.
Off the top of my head there was the Epic Road Trip, my Ballhockey team winning the cup, another fabulous Rhinebeck weekend, a few good running races (but not enough running which is entirely my fault), lots of pretty knitting, my kids continue to be healthy, successful and awesome, I'm still in love with the same guy after 25 years (19 married) and besides the "am I already so old as to need bifocals", I'm pretty healthy, successful and awesome too.
The one things I forgot to do this year was call out the fact that And She Knits Too turned 10 this November.
A decade of blogging. I never expected to still put words on the Internet and have people read them after ten years. Thanks for that. If you put up with me on Twitter or Instagram, thanks for that too.
I plan to keep writing this blog in 2014 and hope to do a better job of posting next year. Along with the classic resolutions of a) get more sleep and b) exercise more, that should put me in league with the resolutions of 95% of the Internet. But like I said, I'm not very introspective and so I haven't given it much thought (except the exercise thing...I feel like a complete lump and need to move around).
Happy New Year to you all. I hope 2013 was good for you and that 2014 is full of ______________ (insert desires here).
Cowl mania continues here at And She Knits Too.
First a fantastic chunky, seed stitch, twisted, soft one in Mirasol Ushya.
I linked to a pattern but modified it to suit my yarn. Details here.
I made this for the charity auction at work and really didn't want to give it away. I love this yarn. It's chunky without being heavy and it's so snugly in a cowl. The whole thing only took a few hours to knit so I plan to make a few more over the holiday break.
Then a handspun one.
Not much to say about this. I took some really old bulky, slightly ropes merino handspun and knit in 3x2 ribbing in the round. Actually after messing up the twisted cast on a bunch of times in the grey cowl above, I freakin accidentally twisted this one! It worked fine and is a nice enough neck warmer. I just never liked how the yarn turned out. The colours looked muddy. It is definitely better knit up than sitting in the stash.
Then I got fancy. I found this beautiful pattern--Kildrummy and tossed the stash for something that would work. The Debbie Bliss chunky tweed is the wrong weight and I didn't have enough of it (took me 3 tries to get a stitch count that would work with the little amount of yarn I had) but I made it work.
Is it a bad thing that all I want to do is knit cowls?
Neckwarmers that hug you tight and keep you warm?
(Duelling Diamonds of DEATH! neckwarmer in Indigodragonfly MCN Sport)
(Triune in Fiber Optics Gradient handspun--my handspun!--Merino Silk)
Totally makes sense to me. It's November. It's often chilly in the morning and I need to fill in the gaps on my outerwear for my bike into work.
Cowls look nice and tidy as a jaunty accessory. They're that perfect extra layer for a cold house or office.
And they're the perfect, not too complicated knitting for a person like me who has been hit by the busy season at work and at home and who doesn't have much horsepower in the old brain in the evening.
Size 10mm needles and cozy knitting.
Bring it on.