March 14, 2015

Vancouver in Springtime

I had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver for a very quick weekend away and fortunately the weather was sunny and warm.  We rented a car and drove to Squamish, about a forty minute drive from downtown and took the Sea to Sky Gondola up the mountain and admired the amazing scenery.   There were a lot of hiking trails to choose from and I really wish we could have spent more time there.

Then we took a walk around Stanley Park.  Signs of spring were everywhere.

The next day we took a walk to the Waterfront from our hotel.  Imagine living here and seeing this scenery everyday!

As we were walking around at night we passed by a florist and saw this lovely display.  Unfortunately I didn't get the name of the store but the flowers were stunning.

 We returned to sunny, warmer temperatures back East with spring around the corner.  Thank goodness : )

March 11, 2015

Spotlight: 88 Stitches

Everytime I travel I like to visit the yarn stores in the area.  Luckily I have a wonderful husband who supports my habit.  A perfect yarn store to me is a store that carries a good variety of interesting yarns, in a welcoming, cozy atmosphere run by someone who is knowledgeable, but not pushy.

This time when we visited Vancouver we stopped by a lovely store called 88 Stitches which fits this description.  As a fan of Melissa Thomson and her Sweet Fiber yarns I had wanted to visit this store as it owned by her mother, and of course is one of the retailers that carries Melissa's yarn.  The second I walked into the store I just loved it.  It is a bright and sunny place with a beautiful selection of yarns, and the owner was very welcoming and helpful.

So much yarny goodness!
This yarn store carried a great variety of brands including Rowan, Shibui, Jamieson's, Swan's Island Yarns, Sweet Georgia and Berroco to name a few.

All the samples from Sweet Fiber Yarns' pattern collection were there.  The patterns combined with the beautiful yarn were even more impressive in person.

Bridgeway & York


Bedford Cowl

Capilano:  a cowl made with 2 skeins of Cashmerino Worsted in Moss

Of course I had to buy some Sweet Fiber Yarn.  Unfortunately the stock was a bit low as Melissa Thomson has just finished relocating her dyeing studio.  But the good news, for those that live in the Toronto area, is that Melissa Thomson is coming with her yarn to the Toronto Knitters Frolic at the Japanese Cultural on April 25th.  Hopefully many people can visit her booth that day and then will understand why I like it so much.

Sweet Fiber Merino Twist DK in Chartreuse

West Yorkshire Spinners Bluefaced Leicester Yarn
and Sweet Fiber Yarns Super Sweet Sock in Parchment

I just wish this was my neighbourhood yarn store.  I would be there all the time!

March 1, 2015

Olivia: Amy Miller & the Joy of Craftsy

When I am choosing something to knit I often try to pick a pattern which has an interesting element/stitch/technique/construction that I have not used before.  I am always on a quest to improve my knitting skills.  Isn't that the great thing about knitting?  There is always something new to learn.

I just completed Olivia by Amy Miller, using a new to me stitch, called knit one below (k1b) which creates a rib like pattern.  While knitting Olivia I soon learned that this stitch is very difficult to fix if an error is made, and at the time I unable to find a video to show me how to correct it, and I ended up ripping out quite a bit.  It was only after I finished knitting the pattern that I found a good one made by Bristol Ivy here. This was a fun pattern to knit and I really like how it turned out.  I had to modify it (see my notes) as the pattern seemed to consume a ton of yarn and three skeins of Tanis Fiber Arts Orange Label Yarn that I had on hand was not enough. Orange Label, a merino, cashmere and silk blend is so cozy to wear that I have had this scarf on quite a bit since I made it. I would love to knit a sweater with Orange Label.

Olivia by Amy Miller

Tanis Fiber Arts Orange Label:  Painted Jeans
Tanis Fiber Arts Orange Label

Another great resource I use frequently to help improve my skills is Craftsy, a website which has many how to videos on not only knitting, but a variety of other crafts as well.  The beauty of Craftsy is that you can learn from experts around the world about your favourite craft, and once you pay for the class you have access to the video forever, to refer to when needed.  

One such video that I have found to be very helpful is Patty Lyons Improve Your Knitting that teaches about the kinds of knitting styles.  I am an English style knitter and I have used her video to not only improve my English style knitting skills but also to experiment with other styles as well.  I feel that my speed has increased since I followed Patty Lyon's tutorial on how to purl Portuguese style. When knitting Japan Sleeves there are extremely long rows of purling and by using Portuguese knitting style I found the purling went much faster.  I can't tell you what a difference it made when knitting this sweater.

Another tutorial that I have found particularly useful is Sally Melville's  Essential Techniques Which Every Knitter Should Know which goes beyond the basics of knitting and purling and teaches you how to do increases, decreases, seaming, etc.  It has been extremely helpful to me with various patterns.  I have had the pleasure of attending one of Sally Melville's classes before and I can say that her Craftsy class was just as great except it can be replayed as often as I want!

Then of course there are the videos by Anne Hanson call the Ins and Outs of Grafting (it's free!) as well as Button Bands and Buttonholes.  Again both are well done and I refer to them often.  

Craftsy is a great place to help boost your knitting skills and confidence.  There are so many other great videos that I didn't even mention.  Have a look!

Have a great week everyone.

February 22, 2015

Algiers #2: Try and Try Again

It's so interesting how some patterns just seem to flow off the needles, every stitch falling into place easily.  Japan Sleeves by Joji Locatelli is a pattern that is doing that for me.  I am having so much fun knitting this pattern that I resent being tired and having to put the needles down to go to bed.  I just want to keep knitting.  I can't wait to see what's next.

Japan Sleeves in progress

Then there are those patterns, that for whatever reason, create a challenge from start to finish. This was the case for me when knitting a shawl for my lovely sister-in-law's birthday. I had planned to knit the shawl pattern, Algiers by Kirsten Kapur, a pattern that I had knit before.  I chose to knit it in Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light in a beautiful colourway called Coquette.  To me it was the perfect combination of pattern, colour and yarn.  As I tried to knit this pattern during a very busy work month I ended up ripping it out three times. This was due mainly to losing focus on the lace pattern and making silly mistakes.  I gave up and tried a simpler pattern and still I was making errors.  I ripped that attempt out and once things started calming down on the work front I retried Algiers and this time was able to do it.  Lesson learned...stay away from knitting complicated patterns when you are busy elsewhere.

Despite all the frustration I am glad I persisted because I am very happy with how it turned out.

Coquette is a beautiful shade of pink with a very slight variegation which was hard to pick up on camera.  Luckily I had bought a couple skeins of this yarn because Tosh Merino Light does not like to be ripped out three times.  It became quite fuzzy and fortunately I had enough yarn that I did not have to reuse the yarn that been ripped out.  However, going forward, if I am going to do a complicated pattern again I think I would use another yarn.

As always I found blocking to be a miraculous thing, as the two pictures below show you before and after shots.  Tosh Merino Light really grows and blocks beautifully.  Despite my difficulties this is a well written pattern that creates a wonderful result.  There are both charts and written directions.  Don't let my adventures with this pattern prevent you from checking it out.

This shawl is in progress after I knit the third section


Have a great week!  Hopefully things will start thawing out around here.  I am ready for spring.  How about you?

February 16, 2015

The Joy of Knitting: Japan Sleeves

Every now and again I choose a pattern that once I start knitting I cannot put down.  I don't always know ahead which pattern will create this excitement.  It could be caused by the yarn I am using, the unique construction of the pattern, learning a new technique, or a combination of the above.  I haven't been this excited about a pattern's construction since I knit Hitofude by Hiroko Fukatsu.

The pattern that has me excited is Japan Sleeves by Joji Locatelli, a designer from Argentina, whose patterns I have long admired.  I am using Madelinetosh Tosh Merino Light, a fingering weight yarn, that I have used many times before. 

Molly Ringwald & Teddy Bear
However, it is the colours, a discontinued colour called Teddy Bear, and a very pale pink called Molly Ringwald, that has brought me much joy and the feeling that spring is not very far off (now that is saying something as it is -25 degrees Celsius feeling like -34 degrees Celsius at the moment).  But it is the combination of the yarn colours and the pattern that has my heart singing...the construction is something that I have never done before and I can hardly wait to see what will happen next.

The first part of the pattern are the lace panels on the sleeves. When I started this section I was working on a few other knitted projects at the same time.  I promised myself that I would knit a few rows a day, knitting both panels at once. My lace knitting skills are still something that I am working on, but the beauty with these lace panels is that they are only 25 stitches wide, so errors are easy to find and correct.  The finishing of these lace panels coincided with the end of the other knitted projects I was working on.  Now I can focus all my knitting energy on this sweater.

The real magic occured when I picked up the stitches on the lace panels and cast on some stitches in between, creating the sleeves and the shoulder shaping.  As any good knitter knows, knitting sleeves are something that can become a chore.  If a pattern is knit in pieces some knitters choose to knit the sleeves first to get them over with.  Other knitters like myself can't wait to do the body of the sweater first, and then later regret that decision when the sleeves take forever to complete.  But the beauty of this pattern is you work on both sleeves at the start in a very interesting way.  And if you love your chosen combination of colours as I do, it is so much fun to see the stripes emerge.  The bonus is before you know it the sleeves are done!

The lace panels are part of the sleeves
Knitting a fingering weight sweater is a big time commitment. The key is to pick a pattern that is so much fun to do, keeps you guessing what will come next, and teaches you some new skills.  This pattern fits the bill for me.  Isn't that the beauty of knitting?  There are so many things to learn even if you are an experienced knitter.  If you have not seen this pattern before you must check it out. This is the first time I have knitted a pattern by Joji Locatelli but I can tell you already it won't be my last.  I shall keep you posted about my progress.

Another pattern that this designer has just published in Pom Pom Quarterly, Issue 12:  Spring 2015 is a hat called Vitsippa.  The stranded colourwork pattern is so original... I really have not seen anything like it.  As soon as I get my hands on the pattern I will definitely be knitting it.  Check it out!

What knitting pattern has you excited?

January 17, 2015

January WIP

January is typically one of my busiest months work-wise.  I bring work home at night and there is very little knitting time.  But I would like to show you what I started knitting.

A pattern that has been in my queue for some time is the Joji Locatelli sweater called Japan Sleeves.  I thought I would start the pattern this month, originally thinking that all those rows of striped knitting would be easy for me when my brain is so engaged with work.  But much to my surprise after reading the pattern, I realized that I had to do the sleeve lace inserts first, repeating the lace chart about eight times! Not exactly t.v. watching.  So I decided that every morning when I have my coffee I would knit a few rows.  It is growing very slowly and by this rate I may have the sweater done by December!  Anyway this is the yarn I chose:  Madelinetosh Merino Light in Teddy Bear and Molly Ringwald, a beautiful pale pink.  I thought it would be a pretty sweater for spring.  Now the question is will it be spring of 2015 or 2016?

Japan Sleeves

The other piece I am working on is my second Pebble Beach Shawlette by Helen Stewart in Tosh Merino Light called Coquette.  I don't usually knit with pink and so I looked at many yarn lines to see what they had to offer.  Coquette, was by far, the prettiest pink I came across.  The slight variation in shades of pink made such a lovely skein of yarn.  This is going to be a special gift for someone's birthday.  The pattern is laid out in a unique way and on the side of the pattern the designer has written what percentage you have completed which motivates me in some way.  I think I can get it done in time, as it is an easy pattern to follow.

Tosh Merino Light in Coquette

Look what came in the mail for me from an Etsy sale held by Tanis Fiber Arts. This is her Orange Label Yarn, a soft blend of merino, silk and cashmere.  It is one of those yarns where you spend more time squishing it then knitting with it. The colourway is called Painted Jeans and is hard to capture on camera...a mix of blue, purple brown and grey.  I don't know what I will do with this yet.  Any suggestions?

Tanis Fiber Arts Orange Label

Oh well, back to my work.  I hope everyone has more time for crafting than I do at the moment.

January 5, 2015

Capall Dubh: Carol Feller

Setting goals is a tricky thing.  I am all about setting goals for myself but as I have become older I am trying to be kinder to myself when I don't reach my goals. I am trying hard to go with the flow and accept that some things happen that can alter what I want to achieve.

I joined Carol Feller's KAL in the fall with the intention of knitting this lovely sweater, named Capall Dubh, by mid December.  However, I did not complete it until the beginning of January due to work obligations and Christmas preparations.  In the past this would have bothered me but I decided to let it go and not worry about it.  Life happens.

This is the first Carol Feller pattern I have ever knit and I think it is very well written.  I used Madelinetosh Pashmina in the Alabaster colourway.  It is a sport weight yarn in a lovely merino, silk, and cashmere blend.  The colour is hard to photograph but I would describe it as the colour of honey with darker undertones.  This was the first time I knit with Pashmina and it is going to be so luxurious to wear.  

Madelinetosh Pashmina

The cardigan was knit from the top down and the sleeves were knit in the round.

 The lace pattern was easy to follow and the resulting cardigan fits very well.

I had to reknit the first sleeve as it came out way too tight.  Knitting two sleeves is hard enough but knitting three sleeves was torture!  Well I might not have met my deadline but I am starting the New Year with a new sweater.  As for other New Year resolutions I am going to try to enjoy the moment more and not always look immediately to setting the next goal.

Happy New Year to everyone!  I wish you all the best in 2015.