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when?

What to say. I’m still knitting, but on a pattern for publication. I managed to squeeze in a Rikke hat, to fill my hat void – it’s a good one.

I’m in that crazy-making, impatient limbo between winter and spring, but this year it’s compounded by a house hunt, a new job, and the loss of a loved one. What I’ve found so far is that these things really make you question. Have I made the right choices? Will things get better, or worse? Is spring ever going to arrive? Thank goodness for comfortable and predictable knitting.

Pattern: Rikke Hat by Sarah Young (Ravelry link here)
Yarn: Malabrigo Rios (100% merino) in Teal Feather

Celebrating

I was excited to hear yesterday that the Canadian government has officially recognized the Coast Salish Cowichan sweater as having national historic significance! The Coast Salish have a rich tradition of arts and crafts, and the sweaters are one of my favourites. GO KNITTING!

My inner (or outer, depending on how well you know me) cynic can’t help bringing up one thing: it’s too bad that the government didn’t make this recognition prior to the 2010 Winter Olympics, which maybe would have encouraged a money-where-mouth-is arrangement to have authentic Cowichan sweaters for the games, instead of made-overseas knock-offs.

But enough of that - let’s celebrate the enduring beauty of these iconic designs. Here are a few links to help get you in the mood:

>> I was thrilled to find Prairie Wool in my new LYS, the perfect substitute for the discontinued Canadian White Buffalo yarn.

>> West Saanich Woolworks has beautiful knits and an interesting story: its founder married into the Tsartlip First Nation, and with her children has given a contemporary twist to the production and sale of Cowichan knits.

>> I knit my own Cowichan knock-off, for better or worse, here.

>> The official announcement and full list of the 13 recently-recognized First Nations items, sites, and persons can be seen here.

Rustic

Rustic by Marie Wallin. I’ve not been a big fan of spring and summer knits, usually bypassing these issues of knitwear magazines (yes, even my beloved Rowan). But suddenly, suddenly it all makes sense: the drape of cotton, the nubbly handmade look of silk noile, the lacy but casual pattern. Apparently, for once, I’m with the fashion curve instead of behind it – just after I cast on for this sweater last month, I started noticing similar spring offerings.

Fuse redux

Here’s a quick photo to show that I recovered my sanity and ditched the red Fuse effort. Isn’t this much better? It’s knit in a nice, calm shade of Ultra Alpaca – soft, too. I might reuse my ball of the red Blackstone Tweed for another Rosebud – what do you think?

Some rainy day

I love legwarmers, though it’s a look I’ve not successfully pulled off in the past. In fact, my very first attempt at knitwear design was a pair of button-up leg warmers. It was a good attempt, with nice Rowan Felted Tweed, but not a complete success: the buttons were ugly and not super functional (think about a size small cardigan buttoned over a size large belly and you’ll start to understand why buttons and legwarmers are not a match made in heaven).

So here’s a second try, by coincidence also in Felted Tweed. I’d had tinyowlknits’ Some cloudy day legwarmers in my queue for awhile, and when Urban Yarns started a tinyowl knitalong, it was time. Love it. It’s my goof-off knitting; it’s been years since I made so many mistakes in my knitting, but it doesn’t seem to matter! It’s just for fun.

Eira

It took a few months to get over the wonderful shock of having my first design for Twist Collective published. At Twist’s invitation, I’ve put together a bit of information on Eira‘s design inspiration and features.

I woke up one morning, a week before the Twist Winter 2011 submission deadline, thinking I had to just try, even though it felt awfully ambitious. My thoughts kept returning to a sweater I’d had years ago, purchased in a second-hand clothing store in Vancouver. It was a plain knitted pullover with slightly puffed sleeves that I wore to tatters because it was so simple and comfortable and flattering.

So as I set out to design something similar, I worried that it might be a bit too boring, visually and technically. I thought about how to give the sweater some figurative festive sparkle by considering what makes winter so magical to me: the patterns of light and water – sparkly bits of ice and rain, the polka-dots of falling snow, and blurred twinkling lights. This is how the eyelet details at the neckline and cuffs came about, as well as the little glass buttons on the left shoulder.

I confess that Eira was designed for my body shape; I used slight puffed sleeve to exaggerate my small shoulders, and a longer length to skim over my wide hips. The final design, however, looks beautiful on all sorts of body types.  The body and sleeves are knit in the round because I feel seams are unnecessary for such a light and smooth garment, but the sleeves do have to be set in because of their gathered tops. The whole thing reaches towards a style that I’ve always liked, a slightly vintage and feminine look that isn’t too fussy.

I imagine Eira knit in a soft and somewhat luxurious yarn, perhaps merino wool with a bit of cashmere or silk. I love the Elann Peruvian Baby Cashmere I used for the sample shown here. When I knit a second Eira, I’ll be tempted to try Classic Elite Vail, one of Handmaiden’s amazing fingering-weight yarns, or maybe the new Knit Picks Capretta.

The pattern itself is very straightforward, with the exception of the acrobatic neckline details. To create the starburst arrangement for this detail requires simultaneously creating pleats, making eyelets, and doing short row shaping along the neckline. Definitely best done in one sitting, if possible, but great fun for those who like their knitting to come together in one big final flourish. And, I’ll be the first to admit, knitting an adult-size sweater in fingering weight yarn isn’t for the faint of heart – it’s a lot of knitting! But for all your hard work, if you choose to make Eira, you’ll get a pretty sweater looks great when worn unlayered, with just a skirt or some dressy pants. I hope you like it!

 

Max

Only three months late, I present to you:

Max! My Halloween costume. Which I wore to work, only to have a red rashy forehead after an hour or two of wearing. I don’t recommend wearing lopi yarn next to your skin, and I’m not one of those “I can’t wear wool” sissies, either. I love me some lopi, I’m just going to save it for sweaters and coats from now on.

Itchiness aside, this was so much fun to make, and fun to wear, too, except that judging by most people’s looks, no one knew what I was supposed to be. People, you need more Where the Wild Things Are in your lives! The hat is just a regular toque/beanie, with ears made and sewn on last. The crown is knit and felted.

By the way, did you see Maurice Sendak interviewed by Stephen Colbert a few weeks ago? Not sure who won that match, but it was funny

Pattern: Wear the Wild Things Are Hat by tiny owl knits (Ravelry link here)
Hat Yarn: Istex Alafoss Lopi (100% wool) in Oatmeal Heather
Crown Yarn: Cascade 220 (100% wool) in Goldenrod

Bum wrap

There was a clothing store where I grew up called The Bum Wrap – it forever (mis)formed my understanding of the phrase ‘bum rap’.

Anina and I have a mutual distrust of knitted skirts. It’s an unforgiving look, wrapping a big round bum (if that’s what you happen to have, like me) in stretchy fabric. But I’ve found a skirt pattern on Ravelry that’s making me question this belief.

Part of Ravelry’s awesomeness is that it shows you what your favourite patterns look like on real people. So many times, my illusions have been shattered: in love with a certain sweater, I’ve scrolled through pages and pages of Ravelry projects that show how unfortunately unflattering the garment is on nearly everyone who has knit it. Many times, I’ve abandoned thoughts of making the sweater for this reason alone. But this skirt

© Veronik Avery

There are some seriously good-looking bums on the project pages! And not all are size small, you doubters – it looks good on different sizes and shapes, it seems to me. Plus it’s made with only three skeins of Cascade 220. Have I gone off the knitting deep end, or is it possible there’s a bum wrap in my future?

Cardigan

I love me a good cardigan. This is a pretty good cardigan.

As I mentioned before, I thought I was a genius for designing this cardigan, except that…I didn’t. But it was fun to make, especially with the cables on front and back to keep it interesting. The shawl collar was a feat, using almost a whole 100g skein of yarn alone. I added a bit of extra length, several more increase rounds below the waist, and finished the whole thing off with wooden buttons. It’s easy to wear, warm, and cozy.

Although: have you had this problem with Madelinetosh yarns? It grew substantially when handwashed and blocked. Alarmingly, actually, and I had to re-block to smallify the whole works. I suspect it may be the superwash factor that caused this (further intensifying my dislike of superwash). I’ll wait to see if it continues to grow with wear – I hope not, because I really love it otherwise.

Pattern: Dark and Stormy by Thea Coleman (Ravelry link here)
Yarn: Madelinetosh Tosh DK (100% superwash merino wool) in Glazed Pecan

Cranberry haze

I made an impulse buy the other day: Veronik Avery’s Fuse pattern from the latest Brooklyn Tweed publication. And then I made another impulse buy: the yarn to make it. Blackstone Tweed in Cranberry. Oh my gosh, I love red. Love love love. Strangely, I have nothing red in my wardrobe, I guess because I’ve found it tough to pair with other colours I wear. What a lame excuse. So I bought RED.

The anxiety began almost immediately – I had to go down two needle sizes to get gauge, but the fabric seemed impossibly dense and stiff. Was there too much positive ease? Were the tweedy bits too much combined with the lacey bits? Was the pattern even my style? Was I actually going to wear this? I finally plunged my 2/3 of a sleeve into the sink, left it to block in front of the fireplace, took a valium and went to bed (kidding. But it must seem like I have a medical issue to be freaking out so much over a piece of knitting).

Calm reason prevailed the next day. Lots of tweed + vibrant colour + lace pattern = sensory overload. What was I thinking. I’ve already started swatching in a beautiful, soft, plain charcoal yarn to try Fuse again, because it wasn’t the pattern’s fault. Or the yarn’s fault for that matter; Blackstone Tweed is sooo nice, and super soft once washed and blocked.

I’m still on a quest for red. I’ll find it soon: a beautiful solid red, soft natural fibre, non-superwash, plied and worsted weight…