Visit us in the quaint hamlet of Myrtle Station, ON at: 9585 Baldwin St. N. (905)655-4858
(17.8km north of 401 exit 410. Look for the green house with the red roof a few doors north of the Myrtle Station railroad tracks)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Hitchhiking in the sun

A new yarn for us this spring is Soleil from Katia, from sunny Spain.
It is a cotton and acrylic mix with 750 meters or 820 yards in 200 grams. This means an astonishing 187 meters per 50 grams. I enjoy the way Katia provides a tag for the starting point, very thoughtful, and most helpful.
A knitter can make a size 14 summer top that weighs only 200 grams. If I were to use lovely Drops Muskat DK, for example the same top could weigh up to 600 grams, as a typical cotton dk  has 100 to 110 meters per 50 grams.
It is a simple, logical, ingenious yarn, made of 4 strands, so it goes; 4 strands yellow -- 3 strands yellow and 1 green -- 2 strands yellow and 2 strands green -- 1 strand yellow and 3 strands green etc, etc through a colourful cycle.
I decided to make the classic, "cognitively delightful" pattern Hitchhiker by Martina Behm. This is a diagonal/asymmetrical shawl with a stepped edge. It is one of the most knitted patterns on Ravelry. There are 42 points, because the number 42 is "The Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything", making this project a cosmic one.
It has been the best thing to knit while watching "Last Chance to See" with Mark Carwardine and Stephen Fry on Netflix, Their late friend Douglas Adams wrote "A Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy", the excellent book honoured by Martina's scarf, as well as the original book "Last Chance to See". I like to add a marker every 10 points so I can focus more on the knitting, and less on the counting.
This is colour number 100. I chose it because of Spring, the luscious yellow start promised good cheer, and by golly it delivered. It is May now so we do have in fact, vibrant, almost juicy green and yellow in our garden.
I have knitted through the yellow, the green and now turquoise with blue advancing, pet colours of mine because they remind me of the beautiful Caribbean sea.
And my beloved hammock by Sea to Summit, a gift from my mom.
So I am knitting and knitting, now at point 34, and my goodness, I still have 112 grams left. Amazing!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Faux Afterthought Heel

This month at the guild we began the afterthought heel technique.
I first encountered this method in Elizabeth Zimmerman's 1980 book "Knitting Without Tears". Personally I don't mind cutting my knitting, however, in my experience, many people have reservations about the practice, so I used the variation where the chosen stitches for an opening are temporarily knitted with waste yarn.
This technique is also used in folk socks, where the main pattern is quite ornate. I imagine a skilled and practiced knitter works the main pattern and the heels and toes worked by a student or apprentice knitter. My friend Samu tells me that in Zimbabwe, a garment is often made by a group. Someone knits the back, another the front, another a sleeve etc. so the garment (i.e.) is produced efficiently.
There are lots and lots of people on the internet with wonderful instructions for afterthought heels, like here and here. In this post my aim is to show my lesson prep plus thoughts on the process.
First I made 12 samples, each 48 stitches wide, and 36 rows long, on my regular gauge machine using a sport weight acrylic, tension dial 10, hand fed.
At row counter 12, I hand knit 18 stitches with a piece of contrast waste yarn. This is so the knitters can practice picking up live stitches without fear of cutting the knitting. At row counter 24, I marked the centre stitch, so if the knitter is inclined to cut it is easy find the exact centre point for the snip.
Stocking stitch likes to curl, so I paired the swatches right sides together, basting them around the edges. My favourite low tech blocking approach.
Because the yarn is acrylic, I used my handy vintage tea towel, dipped in water and wrung out, laid on top of the swatches and steamed by lightly touching the wet cloth method. The swatches are small and fit on the ironing board, no problem.
Now the swatches are flat and ready for the sampling work
A blunt tapestry needle with a well spun piece of contrast cotton yarn makes splitting and snagging less likely.
Poke through the stitches on both sides of the waste yarn I like the purl side of the fabric, as I find the individual stitches easier to see.
Then pull out the waste yarn. Heel opening created!
Flip the piece over to the knit side and put the stitches on my sock needles.
The red yarn stays until I am sure I have picked up every stitch.
Then divide the stitches into quarters, ready for shaping, just as a regular toe shaping process.

Knit the "Toe" heel. Everyone has their favourite way of toe shaping, my practice is:
  1.  knit 2 together at the end of needle 1 
  2. knit 1 slip 1 pass the slipped stitch over, at the beginning of needle 2
  3. knit 2 together at the end of needle 3
  4. knit 1, slip 1, pass the slip stitch over at the beginning of needle 4.
I like to put a brightly coloured marker at the beginning of the round, because the number of stitches is so small and life can be so interesting that I don't notice when I pass the starting point.
When the shaping is complete and I work a final last plain round I stop at the end of needle 3, leave about 8 inches of main yarn and knit a few rounds of stocking stitch in a contrast colour.
I much prefer to work grafting from stocking stitch than off the needles, especially with such few stitches. Here is a blog post about this method.
In this photo, the yarn between the 2 middle stitches was snipped, the stitches unravelled and picked up with sock needles ready to divide for shaping, the authentic afterthought heel method.
Here are photos from one of my beloved Japanese books showing grafting from waste yarn. 
It is important to use a nice blunt tapestry needle
And a clear contrasting well spun yarn for the waste knitting. I like mercerized cotton close to the weight or slightly thicker than the main yarn.
I also use the waste yarn technique for my honeycomb mittens thumb opening as well as the armhole opening on a sideways waterfall vest or cardigan. Very handy indeed

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Steeking Surprise

We had a great time at the April knit guild meeting working on the practice of steeking. The knitting is done entirely in the round, then cut open afterwords for the front opening bands.
There are many advantages to this method:

  1. The right side of the work is always facing.
  2. The focus is colour and pattern, shaping is addressed afterwards
  3. All of the colour change ends are simply trimmed away.
  4. There is no "jog" at the start of a new round
  5. Using a traditional "sticky yarn" like Shetland Jumper weight or Lopi and a pattern with lots of diagonal elements makes for a fabric with excellent integrity
Many knitters have not had the experience of cutting hand knitting, so I used my vintage knitting machine to make samples for the members. Note the samples don't illustrate the line by line colour changes as would be natural in hand knitting.
I worked out a simple typical pattern with snowflakes on either side of the steek. There is a 3 stitch vertical stripes on either side of an 8 stitch, one dark, one light small fair isle pattern.
The experience is to cut up the middle of the sample and pick up on either side of the stripe for the bands. Cutting is the work of a moment, the longer journey is making the band and facing.
Here is an illustration of part of the steeking process from Alice Starmores' book on colour work.
The big surprise for me was the difference in my own picking up stitches habit.  Guild members pick up the actual edge of the main knitting and then use the band yarn. Their technique reminded me of picking up a sock heel flap.
I have always picked up with the band yarn one or two edge stitches in.
Perhaps it is because I sew that I don't mind a seam on the inside.
Here is an illustration from one of my Japanese books. You can clearly see 3 stitches picked up for every 4 rows, one stitch in from the edge of the knitting.
I picked up and knit the band, using my regular pattern of 3 stitches every 4 rows. It was not quite satisfactory, so I redid the sample picking up 4 stitches for every 5 rows.
Then I trimmed off the the small colour work pattern...
...and cross stitched the facing in place. Traditional Shetland knitters wash the garment after sewing and stretch it on a frame to complete the process. Careful washing felts the fabric just enough to add more integrity to the fabric, making a reliable, quality piece suitable for generating income for the knitter.
Here is the inside of a cardigan I hand knit 20 years ago. You can see the stranded "floats" on the main fabric look nice and straight and the cross stitched facing still looks fine, even after lots of wear and washing.  I think picking up 3 stitches for every 4 rows worked better on my cardigan because the band itself is fairisle.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Look To Norway - Book Review

I do like making hats, especially this one in classic Sandnes Peer Gynt. Just to play with colour for short periods of time works for me. We can send you a PDF of this pattern if you like, just send us an email.
To my surprise and delight, in these August days of my knitting career, I found this wonderful book by at the local library by Trond Anfinnsen has done exactly that in the delightful Hat Heads book, published in 2009.
The fundamental reason I am a knitter gets delightfully validated in this book.
Choose and knit for a specific person, reflecting affectionately as you design on physical attributes as well as character. There is also nice clear guidance about design and shape.
I am reminded of "The 5 Love Languages" another library book I recently enjoyed.
Trond writes beautifully about the meaning and purpose of knitting, especially in Norway. He includes a totally unexpected, yet relevant story about  David Aleksander Toska, the bank robber who wore a traditional sweater during his trial to gain sympathy. The power sweater, my goodness!
Trond knits each hat, then he is photographed by his friend photographer Klaus Nilsen Skrudland and presents us with portfolio in the book. Portraits both of himself and his recipients.
For example his mom in a cheerful red and white spiral pattern.
His friends (here is Ingrid in a fetching blocky rib, checker effect)
and acquaintances (Oddvar in a snowflake star pattern)
Just look at how the blue matches her eyes (Tonje in stripes and fish with a rolled brim) 
Knitting in the context of relationship! This quote from the book made me think of so many of the knitters and knitting recipients I have had the pleasure and privilege to meet over the years.

The Joy of the Give

"Throughout the project, and particularly once my hats reached a certain level of quality, people started asking, “Why don’t you start selling your hats?” My gut feeling has always been not to sell them, but to give them away. It simply gives me a good feeling to give gifts and receive gratitude and surprise in return. The simple fact that, one; you have made the gift yourself, two: that is has obviously taken a considerable amount of time to make, and three: that the gift is specially designed for the now who receives it, makes it extra special to give. the receiver will know that you have actually been sitting for hours working for and thinking about him or her. It’s great."

Tronde uses Sandnes yarn, just like me, Smart and Alfa.
He also uses lovely Dalegarn which has come and gone in the Canadian market a few times over the years.
I found a youtube channel about camping in Norway by a fellow named Martin, titled Norwegian Woods  he wears a spectacular sweater in his winter videos. I especially enjoy how thoughtful and relaxed he is as a presenter, and love the sweater. Just a guess on my part, but I think the cuffs are reinforced with suede, the shoulders either suede or fabric. Certainly though, the sweater is a magnificent work of art. It makes me super happy to see it in action. If anyone can tell me more about the trimmings on Martin's sweater feel free to get in touch by email.