The first item that showed me the magic of blocking was a lace baby blanket I made back in 2007. Blocking, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, is washing a hand-knitted (or, I suppose, crocheted) item so as to affect its final shape. It often involves stretching the item as it dries to help smooth out uneven stitches and get cleaner, neater lines. It seems to have the greatest impact when used with lace, which opens up dramatically when blocked, as it did with the baby blanket. It should be noted that blocking only works with natural fibres–synthetic fibres like acrylic cannot be persuaded to change their shape in the way that protein and cellulose can.
I’m really, really hoping blocking will do something magical for my current project. Maybe it’s due to the cotton yarn (which I rarely knit with), but its current resemblance to a mashed Yoda mask is not encouraging. Hard to see in this photo–but I promise are there–are a lot of uneven stockinette stitches. Can’t even blame it on drunken knitting, but there you go.
I’m sure blocking will help open up the blackberry stitch yoke, too. Now that I’m done with that part it’s actually coming along rather quickly–I might need to have another project ready for my trip to Montreal. Which will be something much less tedious and requiring very little attention to detail (see the aforementioned drunken knitting).
So, for those of you who work with cotton more than I do: can I expect blocking to even out my stitches in this cotton yarn?
With a 5-6 hour car ride to Montreal coming up, being faced with dozens of rounds of repetitive stockinette in the Hey Hey, My My pattern by Reiko Kuwamura suddenly doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. I’m past the tricky blackberry stitch yoke, and now only have to pay attention every 15 rounds or so for decreases and increases. No pics just yet, but I did try on what I’ve knit so far and it fits really well in the shoulders, which is unusual (normally everything is a little bit wide).
The cotton yarn I’m using is from Elann, made by an Italian mill. I usually try to use local or handspun yarn as much as possible, but the reality is that cotton just doesn’t grow this far north. One fibre that does grow well up here is hemp, which I’ve never spun but will be the subject of a class I’m taking next month. Cellulose fibres have never been my favourite spinning material but I’d like to expand my skill set a bit. And who knows, maybe I’ll be as excited about bast fibres as I originally was about, say, alpaca…
After a lot of calculation, frogging, and reknitting, I finally finished my Rocky Coast Cardigan. I knit every section of this cardigan at least twice, with much annoyance and knitting math involved. It’s probably the largest project I’ve ever knit, given my general preference for smaller items (ripping out and reknitting a sleeve on a baby sweater is no big deal, on a full-sized adult sweater… that’s another story). If anything, it’s motivated me to start designing or at least heavily modifying patterns. I have a better idea now of what works for me and what is going to fit poorly.
For those of you planning to knit the pattern, I highly recommend making the changes suggested in the errata for the yoke and upper arm. That was the main change I made, as well as changing the decreases (every 8 rows instead of every 10) in the sleeves to end up with a narrower cuff and longer length. I knit the 43″ size, to give several inches of positive ease with a looser, more comfortable fit.
The yarn is Fiddlesticks Luscious Tweed, a merino-silk blend from here in Toronto. I think the cabling looks nicer in a smooth yarn, but I love the colours in the tweed. It’s a very warm yarn, really a bit too warm for the spring day when the photos were taken but will be nice in the evenings when the temperature dips down. This yarn was originally planned for another project that got shelved when I realized there would be even more calculation needed for the right fit than I ended up doing for Rocky Coast.
Thanks to The Blue Brick for the lovely photos.
In addition to the aurora batt of the last post, I’m working on a few other spinning projects. I’m trying to branch out this year into less comfortable territory, whether it’s the fibre itself or the technique. In other words, I probably won’t be making any chain-plied wool skeins on my wheel. I’m going to focus on spindle spinning (especially on my support spindles), silk, and cotton, and maybe some thicker yarns too. For a while now I’ve been in the ranks of experienced spinners who default to fine yarn because, well, it’s easier. Two birds with one stone (spindle and higher diameter yarn) are coming from this nice Merino top I picked up in Montreal (which I’m way overdue to visit again):
(Shown with my mid-weight, unexpectedly shiny Bosworth spindle.)
I rarely take on commission spinning projects. Given the amount of work involved, it’s very difficult to charge a fair price (for me) that is also not astronomical for the customer. Once in a while, however, something comes along that is too special to pass up. When my friend Shireen over at The Blue Brick asked if I would spin up her aurora borealis-inspired batt, I couldn’t say no.
This is the kind of batt that could easily end up a muted, muddy mess if spun randomly. A lot of batts and roving lose their intense and saturated look if the separate colours are blended together in the final yarn, a bit like how certain variegated yarns look gorgeous in the skein but more like unicorn vomit when knitted up. My goal is to preserve the colour changes, so that the finished yarn will knit up into a scarf that resembles the original aurora photo as much as possible.
To do this, I split the batt into one long strip divided along the lines of the separate colours, with a bit of overlap to allow for a gradual shift from one colour to the next. The single is very fine, as it will be chain-plied (making a 3-ply yarn), again to keep the colours separate.
The entire batt is about 80 grams, so it’s a fair bit to spin. In the upper left hand corner of the photo above is what I already spent a good chunk of my commission on–raw qiviut from Quebec! More on that, and the progress of the aurora yarn, to come.
At long last, I finally finished my Lanesplitter skirt. It didn’t take long to knit, as it’s done on pretty big needles using a rather thick yarn (I used the suggested Noro Kureyon). The significant lag time between start and finish arose from the fact that I wanted to add a lining to the skirt. Linings can serve a number of functions, but I was mainly concerned with taking some of the stress off the knit fabric so it wouldn’t end up stretching out after a few wears. In the end, I’m sort of satisfied with the result, but not as much as I expected I would be.
It’s a cute pattern that takes on an A-line shape when the elastic waistband is sewn in (otherwise, it’s really just a large rectangle).
I used this tutorial for adding a lining, out of a piece of ribbed jersey knit I picked up as a remnant. You can see the lining here (and the nice thing about working with knit fabrics is the edges don’t ravel, so no hemming!):
What I discovered is that the entire waistline ends up quite bulky, even though the jersey itself is relatively thin. In fact, the skirt + folded over lining was so thick that my sewing machine couldn’t quite handle it and I had to resort to sewing by hand. I also found that the lining clings quite badly to tights/leggings, although it’s fine with bare legs. I guess it will be more of a spring than a winter skirt.
I do really like the look of the fabric, though. Next time I might just make one without the lining and see how it holds up. Another option might be to use a more slippery lining, although it won’t be as stretchy (and will be even more difficult to work with). Still, it will be fun to wear as Toronto slowly warms up in the brief window of decent weather it calls springtime.
It’s a widely known fact that it is damn cold in Canada, even in a city as far south as Toronto. Even in late fall and much of spring, as well as the long winter. So what does one do? Knit up a pair of versatile legwarmers and use them all the time.
The pattern I chose was Les Cables de Faux, mostly because it was a) free and b) looked like it could be knit without paying much attention to it. It actually took me a terribly long time to finish them (bit of second-sock syndrome going on, I think), but on my last trip to Montreal I wove in the last end and put them on for a (chilly) night out on Mont-Royal.
Note the bare legs underneath. I soon learned that this pattern is also extremely stretchy and slouchy; sometimes a bit too much and even the smallest size was sliding down my calves a bit more than I’d like. Over tights this isn’t a problem:
To remedy this, I used a yarn needle to run a length of yarn around the upper cuff, which can be tightened and tied to keep the legwarmers from sliding down too much on bare legs. In this pic the cuff of one is folded down so you can see what I mean:
And the obligatory shot of the stitch detail, in this case the faux cables (to go with the faux French of the pattern name):
Those who see me on a regularly basis know that I really do wear these all the time. I should probably knit a second pair in another colour!