Tag Archives: knit

Spring socks in fall

There’s no denying that winter is on its way here.  Fortunately, the first frost has been late, and I was able to scatter crocus bulbs around in our front and back gardens, late last month.  This is our first fall in a house and it’s been exciting for us to go through all the rituals of the seasons in our first real family home.

I’ve never planted bulbs before, but there’s something about this fall ritual that feels wildly optimistic.  As the leaves tumble around you, and the garden falls into its long, slow, autumn decay, you are already thinking of spring, picturing these brave little stems poking through the last of the winter snow.  I was so inspired by the thought of these brave little purple flowers, that I cast on Wendy Johnson’s crocus socks from Toe-up Socks for Everybody to take my mind of the grey November weather.

My crocus socks in Cascade Heritage Silks

My crocus socks in Cascade Heritage Silks

I knit them in a very spring-y green Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk.  I’m not usually a fan of colours this solid, but the pattern and yarn were a perfect fit.  The silky yarn is a slippery pleasure to knit, I just hope they stand up to frequent wear. The yarn can allegedly be machine washed and tumble dried, but our hand knit socks get washed in Soak and line dried.

The lace pattern here got a little tedious, it was the first pattern I’ve ever knit where I couldn’t memorize the chart, but I think the end result was worth it. The lace is beautiful and intricate, and like most lace patterns, it’s not difficult; the chart simply has the be tackled line by line.

I’ll be approaching the grey weather in the same way, day by day, until those crocuses come up.

 

A pair of watermelons

My niece in the second Watermelon sweater (size 12 months)

My niece in the second Watermelon sweater (size 12 months) – look at those teeth!

I was completely charmed when I first spotted this pattern. So much so that I briefly considered making four, for my youngest nieces.  Fortunately, I realized even the best pattern  gets tedious, and scaled back my plans to just two baby cardigans, one for each of my infant nieces.  I wish I had a picture of the cherubic little cousins together their cardigans, but the second wasn’t finished in time for a family get together this weekend.  That would have been the best way to do the sweaters justice.

The second cardigan has one small modification, but otherwise followed the pattern exactly.  I thought the pink section was a little small on my first sweater, so the top sweater has an extra 5 rows of pink (with the eyelet row occuring 5 rows early too). I think it changes the impression quite a bit; on the original (below) the pink seems like a collar detail or embellishment, but on the second it looks more like a wedge of watermelon across the yoke.

The first Watermelon sweater (size 9 months) in Cascade Ultra Pima

The first Watermelon sweater (size 9 months) in Cascade Ultra Pima

The end results, like any well-written infant patterns, are adorable, but I think these sweaters proved to be a little less than the sum of their parts.  The pattern is written for Manos Cotton Stria, which has been discontinued, so I had to find a different yarn.  I quickly settled on Cascade Ultra Pima, which worked perfectly for my cap sleeve lattice top.  It’s soft, washable cotton and comes in a wide variety of colours.  While both the yarn and the pattern are fabulous on their own, I’m not sure they’re a great pair – the pink is a little too saturated to convey watermelon, and the sweaters are just a little floppier than I’d like.  However, despite any small disatisfactions, I do think their owners make these sweaters pretty cute!

My favourite knitting books

Now that we’ve got a little more space, my knitting books and patterns have a space all of their own.  While the paper patterns need some love (they’re currently just shoved haphazardly into a binder), I love seeing my books organized and accessible.  Which got me thinking about my favourite knitting books.  Not all books are created equal, there are some I regret buying, and others whose cracked spines bear witness to how much I love them (and how useful they are).  So here’s a round-up of my favourite titles (so far!)

My knitting reference shelf

My knitting reference shelf

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Mitered mittens in Noro Taiyo 11

Favourite classic: Elizabeth Zimmerman’s Knitter’s Almanac.  There is a reason that Zimmerman’s name is synonymous with knitting for many people.  This book is full of fantastic patterns (mitered mittens and baby sweater on two needles are two of my all time favourite patterns!). But what seperated the Almanac from her other titles is that it’s a great read on its own.  Zimmerman shares her thoughts and life as a knitter. Her directions are by her own admission “pithy,” but for me that just highlights the history of knitting as something shared (often orally) through families and amongst a community.  A must read for any enthusiastic knitters.

Favourite sock books: I’m going to cheat here and name two Wendy Johnson’s Socks From the  Toe-Up and Cookie A’s knit.sock.love. Socks From the

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson's book)

Gusset heel toe up socks (from Wendy Johnson’s book)

Toe-Up was one of the first books I bought. It is a fantastic beginners book – she explains every necessary technique clearly and concisely, and there are enough variations to keep any knitter busy for years. I still return to this book when I want something to knit in the car or while travelling (the type of project you can knit without consulting the pattern very frequently.)  I have knit nine of the 23 patterns in this book, several of them many times, and I keep coming back.

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

Monkey socks from knit.sock.love (pattern also available free on knitty)

When I started to outgrow Toe-Up, I began looking around for a more challenging toe-up book, since by that point I was convinced that toe-up was the only way to do it.  When the owner of my LYS suggested knit.sock.love, I was skeptical, since all the patterns are cuffdown. However, one look at this beautiful book changed my mind.  Gorgeous enough to be a coffee table book, knit.sock.love is a book that inspires ardent admiration.  There are regular knit-alongs for this book on ravelry, and a surprising number of people have conquered all 19 patterns, including the cabled knee highs (there are 2!) and intricate diagonals.  I see knitting through this book in the way that many view reading all of War & Peace (which I have done!) or running the Boston Marathon (which my knees will never agree to!). It’s a big project requiring patience, perserverance and time (hopefully one day I’ll have enough of all three).  I have made my way through HederaWedgeMonkey, and Mona, and they are so beautiful; it’s no surprise that so many people love this book.

My youngest niece and her Project Linus blankie

My niece and her Project Linus blankie

Favourite beginner book: Betty Christiansen’s Knitting for Peace. This was actually my first knitting book, and it’s one I highly reccommend for beginners ready to branch out from their first hats, scarves and mitts.  The book contains great, simple projects for blankets, shawls, hats, toys, sweaters and socks.  The basic patterns don’t require special or expensive yarn to look good, so it’s also great if you’re still at the stage where you’re reluctant to drop significant money on yarn, or your hometown doesn’t offer more than the selection at Michael’s and Wal-Mart.  It’s full of information on how to use your knitting to make the world a better place. Inspirational, simple, useful.

Narragansett sweater by Thea Coleman. I can’t wait to make this!

Favourite imaginary book: Thea Coleman’s Baby Cocktails.  Ok, this one doesn’t exist (yet?), but it should, my ravelry queue is filled with her patterns, and Vodka Lemonade is on my needles now.  Her directions are clear, concise and accurate.  Each design shows a clear attention to how they will fit on a woman’s body, and each pattern has a wider variety of sizes than you are likely to find at the mall (I’m guessing sizes 0-20).  I love that her patterns are simple and plain enough to be wearable and fashionable.  Each one has simple embellishments or details that make it special and different, without making it fussy or dowdy. Somebody in publishing please offer this woman a book deal!

 

I’d love to know what books you think are missing from my shelf – What are your must-own pattern books?

The knitting I wish I was doing

This week is crunch time for our move, and I’m not doing very much knitting. In fact, I was so exhausted last week, that I made a serious error on my lattice top, and had to rip half of it out. Since then, it’s been languishing in the bin I keep for works in progress.  However, not having time to knit, doesn’t mean I haven’t been thinking about knitting. I’d love to have some me time to sit quietly with my needles this week…

One of the many rad lattice tops on ravelry

In lieu of sharing any actual projects, I thought I’d share my summer project queue; a round-up of the knitting I wish I was doing, if you will.

1.  Cap Sleeve Lattice Top by Purl Soho.  I’ve recently become enamoured with Purl Soho’s blog, the Purl Bee. So enamoured in fact, that I’ve made Purl Soho a must-stop on our upcoming family trip to New York City; hopefully I’ll have my top finished by then. I have actually cast this on one, in grey and yellow Cascade Ultra Pima, and it’ll be the first thing I come back to, as soon as we’re settled in. I can’t wait to wear mine around our new neighbourhood with a pair of boyfriend jeans…

My Vodka Lemonade, in progress, with a shortened collar

My Vodka Lemonade, in progress, with a shortened collar

2. Vodka Lemonade Cardigan by Baby Cocktails.  Like my cap sleeve top, I have cast this one on (also in Cascade Ultra Pima). I think it’s a perfect summer knit, since the DK cotton is a nice weight and fiber for wearing over summer dresses, on cool evenings – if only, I finish it before the evenings get absolutely cold. I’ve set aside some time to go to a yoga retreat next month, and I’m already imagining wrapping this around me, by the lake.

Watermelon cardigan, taken from the pattern website

3.  Watermelon by Alana Dakos. I’ve bought the pattern and enough pink and green yarn to make a pair of these for my adorable new nieces (six and three months old!). I can’t wait to see pictures of them rolling around in matching cardigans…. so clever and adorable.

4. Plain host/hostess gift socks.  I’ve completed one pair, but want to cast on another in Tough Love Sock, this time in Stormchaser.  I think these socks will make the perfect gift for my sister and brother-in-law, who will be hosting us in New York, late in the summer. It’s hard to come up with a thoughtful gift for hosts who have everything, especially if you’re flying carry-on. But, I think everyone can use another pair of socks, and the fact that they’re homemade tells your host how much you appreciate it!

5. Stonecutter Sweater by Amy Miller.  It’s highly unlikely that I’ll get to this one before the weather turns cold, and I move on to heavier sweaters and Christmas gifts. However, this sweater, from the most recent Interweave Knits, was the first thing that caught my eye, in a fabulous issue filled with gorgeous patterns.  How great would this look over a bathing suit and shorts? Or dressed up the way it’s styled in this picture? There’s always next summer…

Stonecutter sweater, from Interweave Knits.

Entrelac is Easy! Some inspiration and a photo tutorial

Entrelac cushion in Noro Taiyo

Entrelac cushion in Noro Taiyo

Entrelac is a knitting technique that creates a fabric that appears to be woven. In reality it’s made by knitting in a series of tiers, each constructed out of parallelograms joined to their neighbours.  The beauty of entrelac is that it requires a relatively small number of basic knitting skills to execute. If you can knit, purl, k2tog, ssk, p2tog, kfb and pick up stitches you can entrelac. Entrelac is very challenging to design with (the long repeats make for challenging shaping), but reasonably simple to execute.

My internet research, couldn’t unearth the origins of this technique, but it became popular in the late eighties.   Originally, most entrelac patterns called for you to change colours each tier (like I did in the accompanying photo tutorial). However, I favour the even easier way to achieve all those colours: a self striping yarn, with long sections of colour, like Noro.  It isn’t only easier, it achieves a more organic effect, with colours blending into each other, rather than changing abruptly.

Entrelac socks (from ravelry)

There are lots of entrelac patterns on raverly, including these socks, from Sock Knitting Master Class,  and while I greatly admire the mastery and creativity, I’m not surprised that it’s the least popular pattern in the book (with only 5 projects on ravelry).  Some may be intimidated by how complicated they look (but really – entrelac is easy!) and not everyone will want to wear something this wacky.

Entrelac can be a bit bumpy and bulky, making it poorly suited for fitted garments, that you want to flatter the body beneath. Entrelac is best suited to flat garments, or things that require little shaping, like hats, cushions and cowls. While, I love my entrelac hat,

Entrelac wedding shrug

my favourite entrelac project is the cushion, pictured at the top. It’s a perfect beginner project:  just buy or make a cushion, then knit a long rectangle in entrelac that is the width of the cushion, and double it’s lenghth. When you are done, fold over the cushion and seam the three edges. It makes a beautiful quick, gift (and one I’ve given three times!)  Another entrelac favourite?This surprising discovery! How beautiful is that wedding shrug by Alex Lawson? It makes me wish I knew a knitwear loving bride to make it for!

So how do you do it?

Here, I cast on 32 stitches, since each square is made of 8 stitches. The first section is made of triangles (to provide a flat edge).  You will create the triangles one at a time, by knitting (and purling) back and forth, and then moving on to the next triangle:

  1. k2, turn,

    The first base triangle

    The first base triangle (8 stitches on the right needle, 24 on the left)

  2. p2, turn,
  3. slip 1, k2, turn
  4. p3, turn
  5. slip 1, k3, turn,
  6. p4, turn
  7. slip 1, k4, turn
  8. p5, turn
  9. slip 1, k5, turn
  10. p6, turn
  11. slip 1, k6, turn
  12. p7, turn
  13. slip 1, k7, do no turn

I like to slip at the beginning of each knit row, to give myself a looser edge to pick up into.  Now move on to the next triangle, by leaving the completed triangle on your right hand needle and knitting 2 more and turning (your now back at #2). Repeat steps 2 to 13 to create the second triangle (and so on).

The four base triangles (each 8 stitches with a gap in between)

The four base triangles (each 8 stitches each, with a gap in between)

After creating 4 triangles, I switched to red yarn and moved on to the first tier (this one made of parallelograms). Because my piece is flat this tier will include triangles at the beginning and the end of the tier to provide flat edges. I changed to red for the first tier, and my instructions will now identify stitches from this tier as “red”.

  1. p2, turn
  2. knit front and back (kfb), k1, turn
  3. p2, p2tog, turn *notice that now red stitches are replacing white ones, but the overall number doesn’t change, you increase on the right side, then decrease on the wrong
  4. k1, kfb, k1 turn *now you have 4 red stitches
  5. p3, p2tog, turn
  6. k2, kfb, k1, turn
  7. p4, p2tog, turn
  8. k3, kfb, k1, turn
  9. p5, p2tog, turn
  10. k4, kfb, k1, turn
  11. p6, p2tog, turn
  12. k5, kfb, k1 turn
  13. p7, p2tog

Now you’ve created the triangle that begins this tier. You should still have 32 stitches (8 red, 24 white).  You may be starting to see the pattern here. With a little practice, entrelac is very easy to master, since each row follows the same pattern as the previous row on that side, just one stitch longer.  With the wrong side facing you, you are now ready to start the first parallelogram, by picking up six stitches along the edge of the first triangle. It should look like this:

The wrong side of the work, here you can see the first red triangle and the 8 picked up stitches, along the edge of the base triangle

The wrong side of the work, here you can see the first red triangle and the 8 picked up stitches, along the edge of the base triangle

Now to create the first parallelogram

  1. k8, turn
  2. sl 1, p6, p2tog, turn
  3. Repeat these two steps 7 more times. It should look like the white stiches of the next triangle are disappearing under this red parallelogram. You should also be creating a gap between the first set of 8 red stitches, and the second set of 8 red stitches.
  4. k8, turn
  5. sl 1, p6, p2tog, do not turn

You’ve finished your first parallelogram. You should have 32 stitches,  and the wrong side of the work should be facing you. Pick up 8 stitches along the side of the next triangle, and repeat all the above steps to create another parallelogram.  Continue creating parallelograms until all of your white stiches are replaced with red ones. After creating all of your parallelograms, you should have 32 stitches and it should look like this:

Most of tier 1 (in red). 32 stitches in 4 distinct groups

Most of tier 1 (in red). 32 stitches in 4 distinct groups

However, the first tier is not yet complete. You have replace all of your white base triangle stitches, with red tier one stitches, but another triangle is required to give the right side of this a flat edge.  To create the final side triangle, pick up 8 stiches (with the wrong side facing you) and turn.

  1. k1, k2tog, k5, turn
  2. sl1, p6, turn
  3. k1, k2tog, k4, turn *you should be creating a gap between this triangle and the previous 8 parallelogram stitches
  4. sl1, p5, turn

    A completed tier one. Not that there are actually 33 stitches now, 32 on the left needle and 1 on the right

    A completed tier one. Not that there are actually 33 stitches now, 32 on the left needle and 1 on the right

  5. k1, k2tog, k3, turn
  6. sl1, p4, turn
  7. k1, k2tog, k2, turn
  8. sl1, p3, turn
  9. k1, k2tog, k1, turn
  10. sl1, p2, turn
  11. k1, k2tog, turn
  12. sl1, p1, turn
  13. k2tog
Showing the 7 picked up stitches. You know have 8 stitches on your right needle. 1 red from the last tier and 7 white that you just picked up.

Showing the 7 picked up stitches. You know have 8 stitches on your right needle. 1 red from the last tier and 7 white that you just picked up.

Now you are finished the first tier, you should have 33 red stitches. 32 on the left needle, and 1 lonely one from the final triangle on your right. To create the second tier, I changed back to white.  Second tier stitches will be referred to as white stitches in this section. To begin the first parallelogram of this tier pick up 7 stitches, with the right side of the work facing you. You will only pick up 7, because you already had one stitch on your right needle. Turn your work.

  1. p8, turn
  2. sl 1, k6, ssk, turn
  3. Repeat the previous 2 steps until you have a white parallelogram, again it should look like the 8 red stitches from the previous tier, disappeared under this one.  You should have 32 stitches again (8 white and 24 red)
Beginning the second parallelogram of tier 2

Beginning the second parallelogram of tier 2

With the right side facing you, pick up 8 stitches along the side of the red parallelogram. Repeat the steps above to create a white parallelogram. Continue across the work until you have 32 white stitches, and no red ones. You don’t need any side triangles on even numbered tiers. It should look like this:

A completed tier 2. To recap: Your base triangles are white. Tier 1 is made up of 3 red parallelograms, and 2 red triangles on each end. Tier two is composed of 4 white parallelograms.

A completed tier 2. To recap: Your base triangles are white. Tier 1 is made up of 3 red parallelograms, and 2 red triangles on each end. Tier two is composed of 4 white parallelograms.

Continue repeating tiers one and two, until you reach the desired length. Ending after a tier one (the one with the side triangles).  To end the work, you will be creating a set of triangles again. At this point, you should have 33 stitches on your needles; 32 on the left needle (8 for each parallelogram) and 1 on your right needle, leftover from the last triangle.  Pick up 6 stitches along the gap and then ssk the first two stitches on the left needle.  You should now have 1 red and 7 white stitches on your right needle, and 30 red stitches on your left needle. Turn.

On the right needle: 1 red stitch (the final triangle in the previous tier), 6 picked up white stitches and 1 white ssk (taken from two red) Note that on the left hand needle only 6 of the 8 parallelogram stitches are left.

On the right needle: 1 red stitch (the final triangle in the previous tier), 6 picked up white stitches and 1 white ssk (taken from two red) Note that on the left hand needle only 6 of the 8 parallelogram stitches are left.

  1. p8, turn
  2. k2tog, k5, ssk, turn
  3. p7, turn
  4. k2tog, k4, ssk, turn
  5. p6, turn
  6. k2tog, k3, ssk, turn *now you should see what this is accomplishing: the k2togs are forming the top edge of your project, while the ssks are bringing together the final triangles (white) and the last tier (red)
  7. p5, turn
  8. k2tog, k2, ssk, turn
  9. p4, turn
  10. k2tog, k1, ssk, turn
  11. p3, turn
  12. k2tog, ssk, turn
  13. p2, turn
  14. k2tog, do not turn
A completed final triangle. The k2togs have given you a flat top to your work

A completed final triangle. The k2togs have given you a flat top to your work

That marks the end of the triangle. You should now have 1 white stitch on your right needle, and 24 red stitches on your left needle.  Repeat steps 1-14 until you have completed the work, and have only one stitch left on your work. Weave in ends. Block. Admire!

The summer travel debate & my Vodka (Curacao) Lemonade cardigan

This week, I started my first summer knitting project, using this soft cotton yarn, Cascade Ultra Pima, that I discovered recently at a yarn shop that I rarely visit.  I had to restrain myself from buying enough for at least three projects, since I think it will be perfect for this gorgeous cap sleeve top from Purl Soho, and half the fantastic patterns in the summer issue of Interweave Knits (especially the Stonecutter sweater, and Regatta tee).

After an admirable display of restraint, I just bought enough to start the project at the top of my ravelry queue – the very popular Vodka Lemonade cardigan from Baby Cocktails, in electric blue.  It’s easy to see why this pattern is so popular! I love the seed stitch and ribbing border on this sweater, and the pattern is constructed using my absolute favourite method: seamless top-down raglan. So far the pattern has been wonderfully clear, and I can’t wait to start wearing this over summer dresses. Most ravelers have made a play on the pattern’s name, and named their projects after the cocktail that corresponds most closely to their colour of their sweater.  By that rule, my definitely has to be Blue Curacao.

Vodka Lemonade cardigan in progress in Cascade Ultra Pima

Vodka Lemonade cardigan in progress in Cascade Ultra Pima

Which brings me to this week’s other events.  We still haven’t booked our summer trip!  We have two weeks of vacation time at the end of August, and still no consensus on where to go.  We’ve toyed with the idea of returning to the Rockies or Newfoundland with our son, or making our long delayed but oft discussed trip to Iceland. Until recently, we hadn’t made any headway narrowing down the list.  However, last week, we finally settled on a longer trip to visit relatives, with our son, and a few nights, just the two of us, in Havana.

However, as it comes time to book a flight, two things give me pause – all the inherent difficulties of travel in Cuba (outside of the resorts) and hurricane season.  Fortunately, the colour of my cardigan provided me with some inspiration, what about Curacao?  A gorgeous historic city centre, world class coral reefs, a beautiful national park and a geographic location outside of the path of most hurricanes. How can this be the first time I’ve thought of this?  The negotiations continue with my husband on the side of (cheaper) Havana and me on the side of (easier) Curacao.  Either way, it’s fun thing to talk about both great options, as I work on my cardigan.

Willemstad, Curcacao. I’d love to take my own picture!

My Overby Sweater (or Why I Despise Seams)

_AWN4131My Overby sweater is done, and I sort of like it.  I rarely make sweaters for myself, because I’m almost pathologically picky about fit and I find wool really itchy (I know, it’s a strange confession for a knitter!).  However, when I saw this pattern, and the new cotton tape yarn it was designed for, I was completely seduced.  I love cotton sweaters, and the fit, texture and stretch of this sweater make fit less of an issue.

My Overby sweater, knit in Berroco Karma, in the spring sunshine

My Overby sweater, knit in Berroco Karma, in the spring sunshine

That said, I have mixed feelings about the results.  I still love, love, love the texture and silhouette. The actual knitting was as quick and easy as can be, but the yarn presented a few unique challenges.  Berocco Karma is a new yarn, with only 48 ravelry projects, so getting tips and help online wasn’t easy.  It’s a loosely woven cotton tape, making weaving in ends nearly impossible to do to my satisfaction.  On the advice of my LYS, I ended up attaching balls of yarn by sewing the two ends together with a few stitches in matching thread.  That didn’t solve to problem of the ends, and there are a couple places where they have worked their way to the surface.

I hate, hate, hate seaming, and this sweater is constructed in 4 flat pieces (the absolute worst method of construction if you ask me). This turned out to be the biggest hurdle and source of dissatisfaction with this sweater.  My inexperience with set-in shoulders made me reluctant to start messing with the pattern, and now I really regret it.  I should have knit as much as possible in the round, or even better used Ann Budd’s Knitter’s Handy Book of Top Down Sweaters to rewrite the pattern as seamless.

I started blogging, in part, to elevate my knitting skills and push myself to try new things, so I was determined to master seaming and finishing.  I scoured youtube, and watched Berroco’s own excellent videos.  It was a little too late; they recommended decreasing for the sleeve cap one or two stitches in for the sleeve cap to give yourself a firmer edge to sew into (thanks, guys, but next time put that in the pattern!).

A work in progress, sew in the sleeves

A work in progress, sew in the sleeves

I waited until my son was asleep and my husband was safely ensconced in the NHL playoffs to attack.  I laid everything out after diligently blocking. However, even with all that care, the seams do not meet my standards.  I hate wearing anything that looks amateurish, and these seams seem to have conspired against me.  The loose stitches make every misstep glaring, and somehow, I sewed one armpit slightly tighter than the other (not really visible, but still).

All that said, I loved this yarn, and the way it feels, I can’t wait to find another really great (seamless) sweater pattern for it. Please, share if you have any ideas!