Slip Sliding Away: Slippery Yarns

I am currently knitting True Friend with some incredibly slippery yarn.  Allegedly wool, though I can't be sure as I can't read the labels (in Chinese) and the slipperiness is really making me doubt my original judgment on the wool content (which, admittedly, was just guesswork to begin with). 

I got myself into a bit of a pickle when I was dragging the project around, not being careful enough.  I had the working end coming from the center, and the outside of the slippery, slippery skein started unravelling.  The two ends tangled, and I spent precious knitting time picking the ends apart and winding them back up.

The offending ball...

The offending ball...

So that got me thinking about ways to hold together a center-pull ball made of slippery yarn.  Someone makes mesh "yarn bras" (I don't know why that term makes me shudder so much) which are basically like the mesh that fruits and vegetables come in.  I've done a DIY yarn bra; I find the one from a three-packof garlic is the right size for a typical yarn ball.  It worked well but the mesh started getting holes after a while (for what it's worth, the ones that you can buy look more robust than my DIY ones) and also the plastic mesh is slippery and can let the yarn free.  I've also seen people use old pantyhose -- you could just cut the foot off an old pair with runs (as an aside, is there anything you can't do with old pantyhose?  And my last idea was a zip-top bag, with the zip unzipped just enough to let the working end of the yarn through.  And the ball inside the bag could twist and turn as much as it wants.  So far I've settled for winding the outside end very firmly around the middle of the center-pull ball, tucking it in tightly, and being very careful when I manipulate the ball.

Tip: Holding Pattern


I knit socks on DPNs, one at a time, like they did in the olden days.  I don't usually suffer from second-sock syndrome, but it is sometimes a loooong time (months, say) between finishing the first sock and finishing the second.  And so I keep good notes on shaping at the toe and the heel, and on any patterning, but often my bind-off edges don't match.  I use Jeny's Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, which works beautifully, but somehow my tension is often not the same between the two socks, or I manage to wrap the yarn differently -- in any case, the bind-off edges don't always match between the two socks.

So I started putting the first sock on scrap yarn when I get to the part when it's time to bind off, and then I cut more than enough of a tail to finish the bind-off edge and weave in.  Then, when the second sock gets to the same point, I do the bind-off, then immediately repeat the same process on the first sock that I finished.  That way, I get matching cuff edges!

You can see the scrap yarn (in dark blue) holding live stitches, and the long end I left for binding off

You can see the scrap yarn (in dark blue) holding live stitches, and the long end I left for binding off

Dreaming of Fall Knits, Part Five: Rowan Journeyman

Journeyman is a new collection of knits for men by Martin Storey.  Standard stuff:  a scarf, a hat, a cabled sweater, a hoodie, a shawl-collared sweater -- check, check, check.  Are knitwear designers just giving men the standard stuff they want, or are men just stuck with more tame designs than women are?  It could be that designers are, by and large, female, and designers are, by and large, most comfortable designing for the bodies they know (i.e. women's bodies).  At least the colour story in this collection is a bit livelier than most of the fall collections!  And hey, there's nothing wrong with standard; check out Dean, Heston, and McQueen, some of my favourites from this collection, below.

All images by Rowan

Free Patterns and New Trend: Granny Square Sweaters

I've been knitting pretty furiously on two sweaters and a pair of socks, but I have very few exciting WIP pictures to show.  That's mostly because I'm in the most tedious part of both sweaters, where you're adding length but not doing any exhilarating shaping or anything.  I probably should have planned it a bit better; had one boring sweater with minimal shaping and one with more things going on (like cables or lace, maybe) to keep my mind busy.  Maybe a sweater like one of these?

That's the Campfire Cardigan from Make & Do Crew and Lana Red Studio's diy granny square sweater.

I love, love, love how in both of these patterns, the designers have taken a flat, blocky shape (the granny square) and turned it into something fitted and wearable.  I'm also very inspired by the colour stories in both sweaters, though they've very different from each other.  Thinking about weaving in all the ends gives me a headache, though.  And other than weaving the ends, I think it would also be pretty fast to crochet one of these, since a granny square has so much negative space in it.  Maybe I can start a new trend in granny square clothing...

Images from Make & Do Crew and Lana Red Studio

Sweater Eleven, Installment Two: True Friend

I've accomplished the collar (easy peasy, and the twisted stitches look sharp) and the front and back panels (super-fun short rows followed by very tedious back-and-forth on a smallish number of stitches).  Then I spent an hour and a half last night picking up a total of 320 stitches, along the sides of the flat pieces, and now I'm on my fourth round with a total of 460 stitches.  Each round is taking forever, and there are so many stitches it's not "flowing" around the needles very well.  I've already joined the shortest and the longest cables from my interchangeable needle set to make an extra-long circular, and it's not enough.  The stitches bunch up in one place, so I have to stop periodically and move them around the needle. 

Despite all this, it's really fun to watch the sweater come together, especially now that I'm in the striped portion.  So...progress is happening, about as fast as a glacier creates a new valley.


It's a bit inscrutable in the imageabove, but the open part in the middle is in the neckhole, then there are two panels (front and back) in red, and then the striped portion is started by picking up stitches around the two panels.  The striped part is shaped with decreases at the shoulder seams and increases at the four corners of the panels (shown in the two images below).

Dreaming of Fall Knits, Part Four: Wool Studio, Volume II

Knit.Wear is always a little underwhelming for me.  Unlike other magazines from Interweave, I tend not to find very many patterns I like in each issue.  The latest one does have a couple of standouts, though:

That's the Monterey Tee by Kate Gagnon Osborne on the left, and the Pacific Grove Tee by Sarah Solomon on the right.  Both are not long-sleeved but could be good layering pieces in the fall and winter.

Is it just me or are all the fall knitting issues this year into really drab colour stories?  It's not just the overload of grey and black and tan in the garments themselves, but then the models are put against boring grey backgrounds.  Where has all the colour gone? 

All images via Ravelry

Dreaming of Fall Knits, Part Three: Free Mitten Patterns

Cozy mitts are really fall knitting, because it's preparation for the (long, cold, hard) winter ahead, right?  As quick a knit as mitts are, you can't wait until it's -30 Celsius out and you need the mitts NOW to start them.  As a knitter, you have to look ahead a little bit (or a lot -- it's kind of like how the fall fashion collections come out in the spring, when you really don't feel like looking at wool capes and heavy pants). 

I love the look of intricate colourwork mittens, like Jorid Lindvik's, but I don't have the appetite for it.  So I was attracted to these three mitten patterns, which are free on Ravelry, and incorporate a little bit of simple colourwork for interest:  Azurite, Marius votter barn (which is written in a child's size), and Coffee and Cream (from left to right). 


I also like cabled mitts, as they add some cushiness and warmth, like in these three free patterns:  Kaivo, Convertible Cable Mittens, and Wine Mittens.  I'm not the biggest fan of convertible mitts (and don't get me started on fingerless mitts!), because they're really not warm enough for these sub-arctic climes, but it would be easy enough to make regular mitts from that second pattern.  I love how long they are!  Shorter cuffs usually result in exposedskin at the wrists, so I make the cuffs on my mitts long enough to tuck into my jacket cuffs and stay there.  Elbow-length mitts are a bit extreme, but if your jacket sleeves are large enough to accommodate them you'd stay very warm indeed.

Photo Credits:  Azurite (Blacker Yarns), Marius votter barn (Trude Eikebrokk), Coffee and Cream (Megan Charlton), Kaivo (Milla H.), Convertible Cable ( Michelle Porter), Wine Mittens (Jungmi Ryu)


Sweater Eleven, Installment One: True Friend

1.  What's the pattern?

True Friend, by Veera Välimäki; from the pattern collection Interpretations Vol. 2.  I found this pattern by using Ravelry and searching for a sweater pattern using a fingering-weight yarn in multiple colours, and the pictures on Ravelry are so striking!  It's an oversize sweater, fitted at the shoulders but loose nearer the bottom hem, with a most interesting construction method.  And check out some of the colour combinations in the projects on Ravelry!

Image by Jonna Jolkin

Image by Jonna Jolkin

2.  Which yarn did you choose?

I'm trying to destash some yarn I bought in China nearly 10 years ago (eep!).  I was really into making colourwork mittens then, so I stocked up on this quite nice stuff in four colours (two balls each), but then my enthusiasm waned because of the fiddliness.  So I don't have enough of one colour to make a sweater, but putting all the balls together, I think I have enough yardage.  I'd better have enough yardage, LOL.  I'm not even a hundred percent sure of the fibre composition for the yarn as I can't read Chinese characters.  It does say 100% something, and it also features the Woolmark logo, as well as a picture of a ram. 

My MC is red, my CC is blue, and also likely white when I run out of blue.

3.  What size are you making?

I'm making the medium (the third size), because I was too excited to gauge swatch.  I probably should have swatched, because some of the sweater is knit flat and some in the round, and my gauge is never the same with both.  If I swatched, I could change needle size to get the correct gauge in the different portions, but excitement won out over good sense.  I am hoping the oversize nature of the sweater will compensate for any difference in gauge I may have, but I think I will be lucky if this sweater turns out to fit in some capacity.

Not many so far -- I have plans to use three colours rather than two, because I am limited by the quantities of yarn in my possession, but so far I haven't reached the point where I've had to incorporate a third colour.

5.  Would you knit this again?

I really think this is worth answering twice, the first time when I'm in the beginning stages, and the second when I'm staring at a finished object.  So far, I am loving this pattern, but knitting a fingering-weight sweater, never mind an oversize one, is nearly as large an undertaking as a Ph.D. thesis (trust me, I speak from experience).  At this stage, the answer is probably not, even though I'm having fun knitting it.

Project Bags Galore

Are you a project bag person?  I have about a million (give or take one or two -- it's hard to keep track).  Each project gets its own bag, and I usually put in the pattern, the WIP, any spare balls, and tools or accessories.  

I have sourced project bags from a myriad of sources.  Most I've made myself; they're just drawstring bags or zippered bags, sometimes with pockets inside, sometimes not.  I've recruited cosmetics bags to the cause, and also random nice tote bags.  I did notice recently, though, with all the sweaters that I've been knitting, that I don't have a lot of sweater-project-sized bags.  Most of mine are the right size for a pair of socks, or a hat or mitts, but when I get up to 5 or 6 balls of yarn, I'm mostly in tote bag territory. Not that there's anything wrong with tote bags, exactly, but I worry because most of them don't close at the top, and so it's easy to lose stuff.  Okay around the house, not so good for travelling.  And if I'm at home, I prefer a basket or bin for a large project, anyway. 

So when I looked online for large project bags, and found pretty limited options, I set out to make my own.  I have so much fabric and actually, a project like this doesn't take much (about a half-metre each of two fabrics, one for the outside and one for the lining).  It doesn't take much time, either -- each of the bags took me about an hour and a half.  I went for drawstring style over zippers because I'm always afraid of the yarn getting caught in the zipper, and because I just upsized my usual drawstring pattern, eyeballing a lot, so that was pretty quick. 


Ta-da!  I'm very happy with the results, even though I have already had to wash the zebra one (I spilled coffee on it this morning!).  This shows how big they are, next to a couple of sock-sized project bags:


And you can see a bit of the matching-ish linings here.  Each one fits a full sweater in progress, which is perfect.  I'm a big fan of the soft drawstring bags, since I'm usually stuffing a project (or more!) inside a purse or backpack.

In other news, we've had such strange light in the past couple of days (and for most of the summer, actually).  When the winds are just right we get smoke blowing over from the forest fires in British Columbia, and it makes the sunlight look very pink. 

Sweater Ten, Installment Two: Schnee

I made some progress on this last week, while on the road to Jasper and to Mount Robson.  I've finished all the shoulder shaping (lovely short rows!).  It's a seamless top-down sweater:  you cast on stitches and knit the back to the bottom of the armholes, then pick up stitches for each of the fronts and knit each of those down to the bottom of the armholes, and then you join everything together on the longest and strongest circular that you have, shape the armpits, and continue to knit the body down to the bottom hem. 


That's where I'm at now; in the endless moss stitch of the body.  The sweater is getting pretty heavy, though having it on a circular helps -- I can't imagine doing a sweater like this on straights!  Wool isn't even a particularly heavy fibre, but altogether I've put, I think, 2.5 balls into it so it feels pretty heavy.  And, though it may not look so in the pictures, the semi-solidness of the yarn is becoming more apparent the more I knit, which is nice.  


In the picture above, I tried an easy way to keep track of the decreases at the armpit; I took out one locking marker per pair of decreases, and then attached that marker to the decrease as I did it.  That way, I couldn't forget how many I'd done and how many I had left to do, and it would be really obvious if I forgot a decrease.  I've seen this tip other places but haven't tried it until now, though I think I will continue to use it.  This would be super handy for any shaping, like for a sleeve, or armhole, or waist shaping, or even on a hat.  I recently bought these Clover locking stitch markers  and I love them; they're sharp-tipped and smooth, and, as with all Clover tools, really nice to use.  You don't even need anything fancy to do this, though.  Safety pins would work, though I'd be careful with the coiled kind.  Even a paperclip would work, if you're careful. 

Dreaming of Fall Knitwear, Part Two

The fall issue of Rowan Magazine (Issue 62) is out!  Don't these knits makeyou feel so cozy?  Never mind that the pictures were probably taken at the height of a sweltering summer; the models make it look so easy. 

I love these two designs by Marie Wallin, Fumber and Sunset.  Sunset (right below) is knit out of Rowan's Kidsilk Haze, which amazes me.  It takes some nerve to look at a fuzzy, thin mohair yarn and think "I should knit an A-line sweater with a cable out of this stuff," but the piece really succeeds.  I'm not the biggest fan of the colour, but that is easily remedied.  And the patterned yoke on Fumber (left below) somehow manages to look both modern and traditional.  I love the idea of working a colourwork yoke in tweedy yarns.

And Bielby, by Martin Storey -- a cabled button band!  It should look unfinished, but it comes off looking polished.  And pockets!  What a cute little sweater for fall, with perfect styling.  Storey also designed the Thackery Scarf, with some very cute arrow patterning.  The stripe of purple really sets off the rest of the patterning in blue.

All images from

Dreaming of Fall Knitwear

It's only August here, but it's already feeling like cooler weather to me.  Maybe because we were in the mountains last week?  It didn't get above 15 or so during the day, in the alpine region (up by Berg Lake in Mt. Robson Provincial Park), and it was considerably cooler at night.  Maybe it's because school is starting in a couple of weeks -- H is going to her first year of playschool, which is a bit of a laugh (it's only two mornings a week) but is a big deal for her.  And of course, all the back-to-school sales are in full swing!  Or maybe it's because all the fall issues are coming out right about now?  I suppose it makes sense for patterns to be released early, so that you have a time to knit things before you need them, but it kind of puts a damper on the end of the summer.

This is all to say I've got cool-weather knits on the brain (well, more than usual, for me).  The Dryad (left) and Nexus (right) from rhyFlower Knits combine some of my recent obsessions in one garment: hand-dyed semisolids, sock yarn, lace, multicolour shawls, and, in the case of Nexus, unusual construction.  And the company is based here in Edmonton, for bonus points!

Photo credits:  Venomous Flower

Sweater Ten, Installment One: Schnee

1.  What's the pattern?

Schnee, by Suvi Simola; a top-down oversized, long, drop-shoulder, moss-stitch cardigan.  If Google isn't failing me, "schnee" is the German word for snow.  Appropriate for a white winter sweater, textured with moss stitch (which reminds me a bit of snow; even in texture as your eye goes across the surface but not completely flat). 

Photo credit: Suvi Simola

Photo credit: Suvi Simola

It's going swimmingly so far.  The pattern has you knit the back, shaping with short rows, then pick up stitches and knit the right front and left front (shaping each with short rows).

There are well-thought-out diagrams and a lot of explanation in the pattern, so I never got lost or had to rip.  I know it makes for a much, much longer pattern, but I really appreciate when the designer includes a high level of detail.  It means the knitter doesn't have to do as much guessing and the finished product is more likely to turn out the way the designer intended.  And if, as a knitter, you want to make modifications, more details give you more ways to know how and where to modify the pattern.

The designer also developed the pattern for a dizzying array of sizes, which I appreciate.  It's not that I would necessarily need to make more than one size, but it is an indication, to me, of how much the designer thought through the grading in the pattern.

2.  Which yarn did you choose?

I didn't go with the yarn the pattern calls for; I picked out a different yarn and colour for this sweater (Black Plum, in Sweet Georgia's Superwash DK), though sometimes I wish I had done it in white or cream, because the sample sweater is so pretty.  I'm really not a white-clothes kind of person, though.  Anything light-coloured that I wear inevitably ends up with tomato sauce or juice stains on it.


I bought the yarn online, and it looked very semi-solid in people's Ravelry pictures.  When it arrived I was a bit disappointed: the skeins, and also the swatches that I knit, look more solid than semi-solid.  Now that I'm partway through the sweater and partway through a couple of skeins, though, I'm happier because it does look way less solid.

3.  What size are you making?

The designer recommends 10" of positive ease, so I'm knitting the 46" bust size. 

4.  Any modifications?

My row gauge is off from the designer's, but not much, so I'm basically knitting the pattern as is.  I've done the first part of the back and the two fronts, then joined them, and now I'm knitting the body to the bottom hem. 

5.  Would you knit this again?

I'm not sure I need another cardigan like this; I hope this one lasts me a long time.  That said, oversized wool cardigans definitely come in handy, so...we'll see in a year or two, I guess.  Depends how much this one actually gets worn.

Based on how well the pattern is written, though, I would definitely knit another of Suvi's designs.  I'm already eyeing up her Leap Year Cardigan, Rhilea, and Color Your Shawl.

You can follow along with my progress on Ravelry.

Rockies Adventures

How was your week?

It was our fifth wedding anniversary last week, so we celebrated with a camping trip to Jasper National Park in Alberta and a backcountry trip to Berg Lake, which is in Mount Robson Provincial Park, in BC.  Pretty amazing sights!  We saw so many beautiful glacial streams and waterfalls in the valley on the walk in to Berg Lake:


It was very smoky most of the days we were there, because of the forest fires in BC, but we managed to get a peek at Mount Robson one evening:


We took a dayhike from our campsite, and gained 500 m in elevation while hiking through a loop trail that crossed from BC back to Alberta.  There was a cairn at one of the crossing points:


And after the backcountry trip, we went back to Jasper and played a bit in Lake Annette, with H:


We had our wedding ceremony at Lake Annette, right on the walking path.  It was raining that day, but the visibility was still better than this year (due to the smoke). 

I got a bit of knitting done, mostly in the car; I put a quite a few more inches on Schnee (I'm done the second skein now), and I finished the front of True Friend and started on the back.  I love the ingenious shaping on this pattern!  So fun to knit.

Take a Break

I will be off camping this week in Jasper National Park and Mt. Robson Provincial Park, and back next Monday 8/21 with new pictures and stories and knits (I am taking two knitting projects with me, and maybe even carrying a sock project into the backcountry).

Here are some links to keep you busy:

Have you ever considered a lopapeysa knit in fingering-weight yarn?

I love the leaf motif and am really curious about the construction of this shawl

Are you participating in the Summer of Basics?  I decided not to, as my year-long project is already difficult to sustain, but Karen Templer has an update here

If you're in the Edmonton area, Makers and Mentors has lots of cool classes coming up, including crochet and knitting ones. 

Have a good week!


Free patterns: Little Church Knits

How have I only discovered this website a couple of weeks ago?  Cheryl, who is based in Prince Edward County, Ontario, was publishing free patterns on a weekly basis for a while there.  She still has some of the older ones available for free, and the newer ones are also free on a limited basis.  You can read about it here.

Among the older patterns, there's some beautiful stuff:  Big Island Wrapper (below left), Hay Bay Hat (below right), Tooty Mitts (I still love colourblocking!) and Hill Island Wrap.  And in the spirit of knitterly sharing and education, she's got some helpful knitting technique video tutorials.

Images from Little Church Knits

Fall Knitting

Do you buy many knitting magazines?  I used to subscribe to Interweave Knits, but then I realized I didn't actually use the warm-weather patterns much, and I'd be better off just buying the issues I liked at the bookstore or online.  I do end up picking up the fall issue of IK every year, and the winter issue nearly every year.

The Fall 2017 issues of Interweave Knits and Knitscene are on sale now, and IK is a little bit underwhelming: the colour stories aren't that inspiring, though some of the sweater patterns are pretty sharp:

Images via

Knitscene, on the other hand, has a blockbuster set of cardigan patterns!  I love them all, and want to knit every one.  Maybe I'm just really into basics or really into sweaters (or both!) right now, but the patterns are covering all the bases for me. That red/white marled one looks so cozy, and many of the others are a great combination of a simple background stitch with one or two nice details.

Images via

Sweater Two, Installment Four: Montview

So close to the finish on this one!  Seaming is done, weaving in is done, sweater is blocked, buttons and snaps are purchased.

I had actually never seamed reverse stockinette stitch before this sweater.  I was reading a book of Deborah Newton's and she said that as seaming reverse stockinette often produces an unattractive "gutter" at the seam, she will do a stitch or two in stockinette at the edge, in order to have neater seams.  I did only read this after I'd finished all the knitting for Montview, but am keeping it in mind for my next non-stockinette sweater.

Since I didn't do any stockinette edge stitches, I had to seam reverse stockinette.  I found some excellent tips from Twist Collective (article in PDF format here) and in Arenda Holladay's article here.  The latter article instructs you to seam every row (unlike when you're mattress-stitching stockinette stitch and can seam two rows at a time), so that all the rows align correctly, while the Twist Collective article says to seam two rows at a time.  I ended up cheating a little bit, especially when easing the sleeves into the armholes (where the rows don't line up exactly because of the curves), but it looks good, overall.  Nothing anyone would notice anyway, wink wink. 

Weaving in the ends was pretty straightforward but it was strange sensation to be weaving ends into stockinette (as reverse stockinette is the public side of this sweater's fabric).  I always felt like I was wrongly weaving ends into the "right" side of the sweater, funnily enough.

I then wet-blocked.  The yarn I used on the collar was unwound from another sweater, and as I failed to wash it before knitting, it was pretty kinky and the knit fabric rumply.  So I wet-blocked by soaking (in warm water and wool wash), rolling between two towels to press out all the water, and then drying it on foam mats for, like, a week.  I'm not even joking; it took that many days to dry completely and my craft room smelled like a wet sheep for that long.  I think I have to change up my blocking method a bit, maybe press out a water a second time, with a dry towel, or maybe try steam-blocking.  I do like how crisply it dries with wet-blocking, though, and it's so easy to reshape when it's wet.

I do have to put in a set of snaps, and then a set of non-functional.  I think I'll do the snaps first, then the buttons over the snaps.  If you can believe it, I put buttons on my first couple of finished baby sweaters (lo these many years ago) with the yarn I knitted with.  I laugh now at how naive I was, struggling to pull thick yarn through the tiny holes of buttons!  I use sewing thread now, tying off with as many knots as I can manage, and the sewing goes much more smoothly.  I can't say I always do the neatest job, but the sewing is usually concealed under the button anyway.