Free Pattern Friday: Knotions November 2017

Knotions magazine is coming out with a new issue, and there's a preview http://knotions.com/newsletter/preview-november-2017/ here.  You won't have to wait long to access the whole thing, though -- it will be released tomorrow (Saturday, November 18th).  I count 11 free patterns!

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The Autumn Cornucopia shawl looks really neat; it looks like it's shaped with short rows.  The detail on the Center Street pullover is beautiful, and I like that there are a couple of crochet projects too (the Snowcapped Cowl and Hat). 

As always, there are couple of articles on knitting techniques, and Knotions also has an extensive archive of patterns and articles, if tomorrow just seems too far away.

Knitscene Winter 2017

The Winter 2017 issue of Knitscene is out already.  A lot of white and light grey knits, predictably, with Heather Zoppetti's cowl being the only stand-out for me.  The issue does also have an article on stranded colourwork, which seems appropriate since at least a third of the patterns in the issue employ this technique.

I'm finding it hard to get excited about winter knitting now, probably because winter has already hit here!  That is, if you don't have something to wear now, you won't be able to leave the house until you do (because it's just too cold; highs this week are around -10 Celsius.  That's actually a warm-up, because last week the highs were more like -20 Celsius).  Then again, we can always use a new, beautiful winter accessory, right?  It always feels so much better to me to wear natural fibres like wool (unless you're allergic, I guess, though there are always alternatives) than the pilly, scratchy acrylics that ready-made knit sweaters and accessories are composed of.

Images by Interweave Knits

FO: Hot Mess Headband

After digging in on so many sweater projects this year, I'd really forgotten how nice it is to have smaller, instant-gratification project finished.  So little knitting, so little finishing; a quick knit.

When I was knitting this, I thought the "hot mess" part referred to the way the headband looks right after you finish the cable in the middle.  Mine kept wanting to twist back to its original orientation, essentially looking like the backside of a cable with no stitches on either side to keep it in place.  In fact, and I don't know what came over me, I had to take three runs at the cable before I managed to get it right -- chalk it up to the sheer size (I've never done a 12x12 cable before) and the fact that it's an isolated twist, with nothing to hold it in place immediately.  So if at first you don't succeed, curse and rip out and try again.

Other than a few cable troubles, this was a very quick (two-evening) project.  I used needles one size smaller than recommended, and I made mine 2 stitches wider to try to compensate.  I also, if I weren't so excited to just get started, I would have realized that I should have done a provisional CO so I could do a three-needle bind-off at the end (easy peasy and clean-looking!).  Instead, I did a long-tail CO at the beginning, a suspended BO at the end, and then a neat-o crochet slip chain to seam it at the end.  Relatively painless, but a bit bulkier than I'd like.  Also for next time, I think the band could be 1 inch smaller in circumference, to better fit my head.  Overall, though, I'm very happy with my new headband.  When are you going to start yours?

Free Pattern Friday: Hot Mess Headband

This early winter weather has been a bit hard to work around, as my hair is so long and I sometimes have it in a bun or a ponytail, and then a hat doesn't fit over it.  The Hot Mess Headband by Heather Walpole is the perfect solution for keeping my ears warm, and it's so cute!  I love the turban-like twist, and it's not that bulky because the twist is made by cabling.

Image by Ewe Ewe Yarns

Image by Ewe Ewe Yarns

I've got mine done already, and I'll show it to you on Monday.

 

FO: Pixie Hat

My coordinating set is finally complete!  I made two hats for myself and O last year, using up scraps of yarn (I mean, colourblocking), and I did the Adult Small size of PurlBee's Garter Stitch Hat for both.  I did also make one for H with leftover Madeline Tosh yarn, but it was too small (I think it was the baby size?).  So, because she really wanted in on the pokey-uppy hat (LOL, you have to love three-year-olds!) game, I made her one in the Kid size, in (what else?) pink and purple (sorry, Mallow and Rhubarb).  I'm still working and working on my sweaters, but I realized I need to have a small project going at all times so I can knit in the tiniest moments. 

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The yarn was leftovers in my stash, of the dearly defunct Mission Falls 1824 Wool variety.  I don't think I realize before how lovely this yarn is!  I had knitted and frogged it a couple of times, and it still knitted up beautifully; it was springy and lofty, with a smooth hand.  A couple of evenings of visiting with the in-laws and boom!  One new hat, one happy girl (though I can't say the candy had nothing to do with it):

Have you started your Christmas knitting yet?

Or maybe you're finished...!!

I was looking at this listicle the other day and a couple of the items really struck me:

17. Everyone wants you to knit them something for Christmas, and it seems like a great idea. Until you remember how time consuming and expensive two jumpers, three pairs of socks and six scarves will be.

18. So this year you promise yourself you’re going to start in July. And you’re still in a panicked rush at the start of Advent.

Yeah, that's usually where I am through most of the fall, actually.  I have, in the past, started my Christmas knitting on December 23rd, which is a terrible idea.  People, other than H, mostly don't ask me to knit stuff for them, but I really like giving hand-knit items to the ones I love (and the ones I can trust to take care of hand-knits).  Every year, I make an overly ambitious list of handmade gifts to make (in that it has more than zero items on it), and every year, I fail at it. There just isn't enough time in the world to get everything I want done.  So I'm declaring myself free this year: free of obligation to a list, and free of guilt.  If I get handmade gifts done, all the better; if I don't, then I will buy some chocolates and let it go.

Image by Julie Williams at Little Cotton Rabbits

Image by Julie Williams at Little Cotton Rabbits

Free Pattern Friday: Bousta Beanie

Ever since I read Ann Cleeves' Shetland series (there are six books altogether, featuring Detective Inspector Jimmy Perez, and I started in the middle with Red Bones) I've wanted to visit the Shetland islands.  The deep knitting tradition on the island even makes an appearance in Red Bones; one of the characters hosts knitting workshops for tourists.  And true to the damp, cold climate, everyone dresses in the coziest cabled wool sweaters and hats (in the TV version of Red Bones, anyway).

Shetland now even holds an annual Wool Week, celebrating their textile heritage.  We've missed this year's event, but can participate in a little way by knitting Gudrun Johnston's Bousta Beanie, a free pattern for a colourwork hat (Rav link).  You can see the characteristic fuzziness of the Shetland yarns in her samples, and the patterns offers several colour scheme options (I favour the high-contrast one, myself), all based on the colours of Shetland. 

Images by Gudrun Johnston

Knitting Sleeves on Top-Down Sweaters

How was your Halloween?  It was a snowy one here:

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Apparently this isn't unusual for Edmonton, according to my MIL, but I don't remember a snowy Halloween since I moved here (in 2004).

I'm in the midst of two top-down sweaters, and while I always enjoy doing the body knitting, I really, really, really dread the sleeves.  You're knitting a small circumference in the round, which means DPNs, and the multiple points of the DPNs are constantly getting caught in the body of the sweater.  The sweater yoke and body is heavy, and keeps pulling on the sleeves, which is also a nuisance.  And, probably the thing I hate the most, knitting in the round means the body is constantly twisting and needs to be untwisted, so every couple of rounds you have to lift this terrible heavy thing and let it untwist.

First-world problems, I know, and luckily Karen Templer at Fringe Association has a few good ideas.  First, knitting the sleeves before you've done most of the body.  And, come to think of it, there's no real drawback to doing this.  You are probably already confident the yoke part fits anyway, and if it doesn't, it's as much work to frog the body as it is to frog the sleeves.  And her second is to knit the sleeves flat.  This way, you're not turning the sweater around and around, having to untwist it.  The only "drawback" is a seam to sew at the end, but it could be worth it because the knitting of the sleeves themselves won't be so awkward.  It's a bit too late for me to try these ideas on my True Friend sweater, as I'm on the cuff of the first sleeve, but I'm going to give knitting flat a go with my Schnee sweater (I'm about to cast off for the body). 

Field & Forage Naturally Dyed Yarn

There's a bit of a natural-dye trend going around the knitting world; you can dye wool with nearly anything out in your yard, garden, or pantry:  dandelions, strawberries, acorns, avocado pits, turmeric, black beans...once you start looking, a whole new world opens up.

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And if you don't want to start dyeing yarn yourself, Custom Woolen Mills (located near Carstairs, Alberta) has developed Field & Forage, a line of yarns dyed with natural products like hopi sunflower, dyer's chamomile, and tansy.  I love the idea of repurposing invasive plant species and putting them to good use, and their yarns have a deep, rich colour that's not often seen with natural dyes.  My favourite is probably the Pernambuco Dark colourway, a saturated cerise.  While the price of these yarns reflects their handmade-ness, a skein or two could add verve to a larger project, and since the 2-ply base for the naturally dyed yarn is also available in natural sheep shades, it would be easy to combine a dyed skein with undyed ones.  I also really appreciate how the collection won't always be the same; like nature, the colourways will differ from year to year depending on the plants that are available.

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All images by Custom Woolen Mills

Free Pattern Friday: Aidan's Socks

Is DK weight too heavy for socks?  Not necessarily; if your shoes or boots fit slightly large, they can probably accommodate a sock knit in a heavier weight (and that is therefore thicker).  I also have a pair of DK-weight knee socks that are the coziest for sleeping in, especially when I'm camping.

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This is all by way of introducing today's free pattern link, for Aidan's Socks, a pair of DK-weight socks with a beautiful cable, by Heather Marano (Rav link).  There's a little chart for the braided cable, and it doesn't look too complicated -- I like charts for cables or lace that will fit on a 3x5 index card, so I can stuff it easily into my knitting bag, and I think this one would fit the bill.  They're designed for men's size 8-10, but it would be easy enough to modify the pattern for a smaller or larger foot, as a large portion of the panel is reverse stockinette stitch.  As well, I feel like the socks are on the shorter side, but it would be easy enough to modify that as well if you like a taller sock.

Image by Olann and

Reflection: How do you fit knitting into your day?

I find that even without working outside the home full-time, there's just always so much to do that it gets really hard to find time for knitting.  And don't get me wrong, I love sitting down for an hour or so in the evening and knitting, but that just doesn't always happen.

But last week H had her first parent-less swimming lesson ever (yay!) and so I was able to just sit.  Sit!  On a bench!  By myself!  And I managed to put a couple of rounds on a sock, which is very amazing to me.  Everyone else was just wasting their time, twiddling their thumbs, looking at their phones, or, you know, watching their kids in the pool.   Whatever!  :P

The lesson was only half an hour, but it feels so hard-won when you're home with a preschooler all day, and even to get a couple of rounds done is amazing.  A win for multitasking and fitting in time for the good stuff. 

 

All-Albertan Yarn

The ladies over at the Alberta Yarn Project have produced some yarn that was grown and spun in Alberta:  the fibre comes from sheep from two farms in central Alberta, and was clipped in 2017.  It was processed at Custom Woolen Mills, near Carstairs, Alberta. 

According to the website, there are two types of yarn available:

Harvest is a one of a kind blend of Black Welsh Mountain black fibre and white Suffolk fibre. The result is a beautiful, naturally heathered, steely grey 2-ply yarn that is perfect for your next worsted/aran weight project.

Heirloom is a lovely 1-ply yarn and is naturally dark black from Black Welsh Mountain sheep. A fingering weight yarn, perfect for intricate colourwork, or a beautiful lace shawl!

You can find the yarns and some kits at the Alberta Yarn Project website, though they do show up at fibre events around the province and hold Craft and Draught events in Edmonton. 

As much as I like bright colours and striking dye patterns, natural yarns are so appealing because they remind you of the animal that gave its fibre to keep you warm.  I think Canada and Alberta, in particular, have something unique to offer the world of knitting and fibre, and so this is such a cool project and offers a great way to try out Albertan yarns.

Images by Alberta Yarn Project

Free Pattern Friday: Astor

It was unseasonably warm last week when we were in Toronto (I'm talking shorts and tank tops weather, people!  At Thanksgiving!  We even considered eating our Thanksgiving feast out on the deck, it was that warm) but now I'm back in Edmonton, back to my frost-killed garden, to piles upon piles of crunchy leaves, to stiff winds, to chapped lips.  But it's not all bad, because it's perfect weather for warm drinks and wool sweaters! 

Image by Berroco

Image by Berroco

Astor is a cabled cardigan designed by Norah Gaughan, and it's amazingly free through Berroco's website.  It calls, obviously, for a Berroco yarn, Peruvia Quick.  I have to admit I haven't knit much with Berroco's yarns, as they're not that easy to find here, but I've heard good things and, at least at first glance, I think Cascade's Ecological Wool might make a good substitute.  The price per hank has gone up recently (like, what else is new) but it's still a great deal for the yardage, and it's so nice to knit with.  I've made three sweaters with the Cascade stuff and I'm still loving it.  And pockets!  I know you can add pockets to nearly any sweater if you so wish, but I appreciate so much when a designer includes a useful feature like that and saves you the extra work.

Back in the YEG

We caught a VERY early flight on Monday and we're back!  On the one hand, early flights help you not waste daylight hours travelling, but on the other, early flights make the day so. very. long....

But we made it.  We had a good visit -- I was looking through and I hardly took any pictures of the coolest stuff!  Mostly eating, to be honest; we had fabulous sushi, dim sum (the Richmond Hill has really upped its restaurant game since I lived there), amazing Himalayan food, grilled mahi-mahi at St. Lawrence Market, and of course, my mom's unparalleled home cooking.  And my sister and I took a macaron-making class at George Brown College (part of their Continuing Education division), which was so fun and instructive -- and of course I don't have any pictures of that, because we were so busy working.  We took in a stealth country music concert (long story; suffice it to say that no one expects a man who has played both the Phantom of the Opera and Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, and who is currently appearing on Broadway, to instigate a "hootenanny"), a brewery tour in Barrie, and spent a lot of time at the playground. 

We did make it to the zoo, and we saw the pandas (who will be moving to Calgary next year).  The exhibit was extensive and super-interesting, actually.  And the playful panda babies just celebrated their second birthday!  H also decided to have a dance with a beaver statue.    

As for knitting, I ended up only taking a sock project because of limited luggage space (I can't bring myself to pay to check a bag!), and I made good progress on it.  I turned the heel and am almost ready to start the cuff at the top, and since this is the second sock, the pair is nearly done.  Some of you may be interested to find that I had no trouble taking my interchangeable needle set or my set of DPNs through airport security, though they did give my husband a load of trouble over a ceramic-bladed vegetable peeler (go figure!). 

Designing Fair Isle Yokes: Tin Can Knits

Those ladies at Tin Can Knits are just a factory for knitting patterns!  They've recently released a pattern -- maybe more like a recipe -- for a customizable fair-isle-yoke sweater pattern, called Strange Brew (is it bad that I've never seen that movie?)  It is not easy to design a fair isle yoke, because the stitch count in the rows or rounds changes throughout the yoke, but you still have to achieve the correct shape in the yoke.  A recipe like this would be really handy for plugging in the patterns and colours that you like.

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And if you don't feel like designing your own, they have some great patterns with fair isle yokes already; Tenderheart (left) and Clayoquot (middle) have been out for a while, and Dogstar (right) is a new one.

I have quite a few patterns from Tin Can Knits in my stash, and they're all very clear and come in a huge range of sizes (I'm not kidding; they size from infant to plus-size-adult, which is pretty rare in knitting patterns), so you do get a lot in a single pattern. 

All images by Tin Can Knits

Free Pattern Friday: Herringbone Sweater

It's not often you find sweater patterns for free, and from so experienced a designer as Erika Knight, no less.

Perfect for wearing while gazing across a lake, the Irish breeze blowing through your beard, the Herringbone Sweater features a graphic pattern produced by a jacquard stitch (am I the only one who had to look that up?).  The black-and-white colour scheme is perfect, though I could see it done in cream and dark brown as well, and I betit's a thick, warm sweater.  It's on the advanced side (see instructions like "Join right shoulder with invisible stitch" and "sew sleeves into armholes to fit" -- literally, that is it) but with a good knitting reference book and a quiet nook, one could probably make it work.

Images from Olann and

Scrappy Socky Happiness

My True Friend sweater (still in progress, but I'm very close to the end of the seemingly-endless striped section!!) is in a fingering-weight yarn, and at the end I'm going to have quite a few small balls of yarn left.  In fact, over so many years of knitting socks, and fingering-weight shawls, and hats and mitts, I have quite a few ends of balls.  Together they would make a pretty nice memory blanket (instructions here), or an Excavation (fringe means no ends to weave in!). 

I could also make a pair or two of Happy Scrappy Socks.  The socks doesn't solve my problem of having tiny balls of fingering-weight yarn with no nylon or mohair in it, though.  I've got a scrappy crocheted blanket in progress, and I just mixed fibres -- wool, cotton, nylon, alpaca, mohair, silk, whatever --  with wild abandon, figuring the blanket wouldn't get much wear (at least not the way a pair of socks gets wear) and could be handwashed when necessary.  Isn't the randomness strangely beautiful?

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Free Pattern Friday: Vallmo Socks

With an elaborate inspiration story and an intricate lace pattern (spread across four charts!), the Vallmo sock (on Ravelry) is arresting.  It is knit at a teeny-tiny gauge, like most sock patterns, and it is knit from the top down (not my preferred way, but I'll do it for a pattern I really like), but there are three size options (always nice).  It's written for yarn from an indie dyer on Etsy, or you can easily substitute nearly any other sock yarn.  I'd stick with a solid, light colour, so the lace pattern will shine.   

Images by Spinning Yarns Designs

Fall Break

Just a heads-up, the posting schedule for this week and next will be a little lighter than usual.  I'm going to Toronto to visit family and so I'll only have one more post this week (on Friday) and two next week on Wednesday and Friday. 

As an aside to knitting, I'm really excited because I'm training for a new part-time job teaching a fitness class!  I've never done anything like this before, but I love dancing and I think it will be a great experience.

I'll be back after Thanksgiving, refreshed and hopefully with at least one sweater done!  Happy Thanksgiving to all the Canadians :)

Free Pattern Friday: Reyna

Because I'm leagues-deep in sweater mode right now, I favourite a ton of sock and shawl patterns on Ravelry.  I tell myself -- and this is probably going to end up being inaccurate -- that I can knit shawls and socks again in three months, once the Year of Twelve Sweaters is over.  One of the ones I've saved is Reyna, a simple and beautiful pattern for a variegated sock yarn.  One skein is kind of my default for sock yarn, when I find something too lovely to leave behind but for which I have no idea what to make.  One skein of sock yarn is a good compromise, as it could become a pair of socks, a pair of mitts, a shawl or cowl, or it could be coupled with another skein of sock yarn to make something striped.  Basically, it's enough to make something nice, without making you commit to investing hundreds of dollars in yarn before you even know what you want to make.

Noora Laivola's free shawl pattern, Reyna, is the answer to my wishes.  I would think it's best suited to variegated, handpainted, or semi-solid colourways, because the lace pattern would show those off best, and it will maximize the use of your single skein of yarn, since it's knit from the top down.  It's available for free on Ravelry in three languages (English, French, and German), and the pattern sheets even include a little bonus section tracker.

Images by Noora Laivola