Archive for November, 2009

FO: Swell

Monday, November 30th, 2009

My “swatchless” tendencies got me into a fair bit of trouble last night….and I didn’t want to post about the issue until it had been satisfactorily resolved.  I didn’t want to have to name this post “Not so Swell”

It all started when a hat with earflaps was requested for a Christmas gift.  I went directly to Ravelry to search for a nice free pattern.  I found several, but the one that stood out to me, and got the thumbs up from several friends was Swell {Ravelink}.

I knew that the pattern called for Cascade 220, but I had Cascade Ecological Wool….how different could they be?  (How different indeed!)  Being a smart swatchless knitter, I cast on the earflap and knit my “pseudo swatch” in stockinette stitch.  I measured the number of stitches and rows that were in an inch and was not too far from what the gauge recommended.  To be safe, I used the needles that the pattern called for, and cast on for the LARGE size, thinking that even if this wool is thicker (which it is), the hat will still be wearable, if not a little dense.  Dense hats are warm right?  This is a GOOD thing in Canada.

The pattern called for the hat to be knit on a circular needle, but I don’t have one of that size.  I used my trusty DPNs, which are fine, as long as you squish all the stitches together so they don’t fall off the ends of the needles.  The one downfall is the inability to try on the hat in progress.  (Note to self:  TRY ON THE HAT IN PROGRESS!!)

The pattern is very well written, and the chart is easy to follow.  If you are using the correct yarn, and knit to gauge, I’m sure that your hat will be lovely!  I finished the hat last night very quickly (surprisingly quickly).  I tried it on, and it just about flew right off my head.

After a cup of tea and a few minutes of frustration careful analysis, I determined that my stitch gauge was good, but the row gauge was not so good.  With the materials I was using I needed to modify the hat to insert more rows before the decreases, and decrease more gradually to give the hat more depth.

I ripped the hat back to just after the 16 rows of stranded knitting and modified the LARGE pattern as follows:

Knit 1 inch plain

Knit 31 K2tog (repeat 3 times)

Knit 1 round

Knit 14 K2tog (repeat 6 times)

Knit 1 round

I continued with 1 plain knit round between the decrease rounds.

The hat now fits, but the ear flaps did not flap down at all.  They curled up and looked really foolish.  Perhaps knitting the earflaps in garter stitch would make them lay flat, but I didn’t particularly want to perform surgery on the hat to test my theory.  Instead, based on the idea that thick earflaps is a good thing, I picked up stitches along the cast on edge and knit another layer on the inside of the earflap.  Since I detest sewing seams I picked up stitches along the edge of the earflap as I went, and when it was the right length, I did a 3 needle bind off on the inside of the hat.

I quite like how it looks, and think that even if I had the right materials, this modification would be needed for our cold winters.

So here it is….SWELL!  I think it looks pretty good now.

Spinning Wheel

Sunday, November 29th, 2009

I packed up my spinning supplies and headed to see a friend’s girls this morning (they are the ones that dyed the beautiful roving).  I brought 4 bobbins, a lazy Kate, my one treadle Lendrum spinning wheel, orifice hook, yarn swift, ball winder, niddy noddy, and a great deal of dyed roving.

I gave the girls a lesson on how to spin with the wheel.  It was fun to see their skill develop, and how they got mesmorized by the spinning colours.  By taking turns, they did a good job of spinning, plying, and winding up their new yarn.  They learn so quickly!!

I look forward to seeing what they will make with this!

We’re looking for ideas for projects that beginner knitters could do with small quantities of  bulky “novelty” yarn (100% wool, so it could felt nicely).  Are there any ideas out there?

Saturday Night Spinning

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

Look what I’ve been up to this evening!  I spun up some of the roving that the girls dyed last week.  I’m going to visit them again tomorrow for a bit of a spinning lesson, but we wont have time to spin it all then.

I am so impressed by how their colour combinations look when they are all spun up.  I hope to see something fabulous knit from these small skeins.  I’m motivated to try some of my own fiber dyeing sometime soon.

Amazing what can be done with kool-aid!

Vanier Cup Victory!

Saturday, November 28th, 2009

So, the trilogy of playoff games ended today with the Vanier Cup being played in Quebec City.  The superfan and friends went up to watch in person, while I stayed home and watched with family.  As usual with Queen’s, it was a close game, but they came from behind to win by 2 points with the last quarter being played against the wind.  It must have been so exciting to be at the game.  I’ll hear more details when the superfan returns tonight.

Superfan and the Vanier cup. Photo credit: Kate

I was knitting my illusion mittens while I watched the game.  I’m not sure if they are the right proportions to fit anyone; they are definitely big for me, but my hands are small.  It is so exciting when the illusion starts to become visible.  I think I’ll have fun making more patterns like this.  This is what it looked like before the game.

when looked at face on, the pattern is hidden!

By the end of the game, all that was left was the thumb.

It’s a plain old striped mitten….until viewed from an angle.  See the starfish?

I’m going to spend some time this evening spinning up some wool dyed by the girls last week.  The spinning wheel goes on the road tomorrow morning for them to give it a whirl.

One Thrummed Mitten

Friday, November 27th, 2009

“What is that, a boxing glove?”

This mitten is looking very absurd.  It is large….VERY large.  I keep looking back at my photos to check that the recipient actually does have big hands.  It is thick and puffy, because it is thrummed with locks of sheep fleece, which eventually should mat down a bit, but right now are VERY puffy indeed. (Thrumming instructions found here)

I did a little knitting on my lunch break today and finished up the fingertips and the thumb.  It really does look like a boxing glove.  I’m sure the recipient won’t mind….I bet he’s tried boxing once or twice before.

I have heard many funny comment while knitting this mitten; the funniest one was “why are you knitting a baked potato?!”

Now that’s a good question!

Free Movie Inspired Knitting Patterns

Friday, November 27th, 2009

Recently I have become more interested in knitting pattern design, and as winter arrives I start to notice interesting patterns and stitch combinations on garments in stores, or on people that I pass in the street.  I keep mental notes for the most part.  I sometimes worry what people might think if I got out my camera, or notepad to record details on the spot.

There are many people that I know well enough to ask them for a closer look at their knitwear.  They often put up with me examining their new hat, or mitts, and my need to feel the wool and figure out how the garment was made.

It seems like moviegoers have been struck with a similar obsession.  People freeze frame movies, and design the knitwear that they see.  It must be quite a challenge!  I now worry that I will never watch a movie the same way again!!

I’ve done a quick Ravelry search this evening, and compiled a list of movie inspired knitting.  I’ve linked to blogs where available and also to {Ravelry}.  These patterns are all FREE!  Pictures were taken from Ravelry pattern pages.

Feel free to add your favourites in the comments, and I will add to this list.

I think I’m going to have to knit a pair of Bella Mittens, they look so cozy.

Twilight/New Moon inspired

Twilight Book jacket socks or mittens or arm warmers etc {Ravelink}

Bella mittens {Ravelink}

Bella’s LaPush Hat {Ravelink}

Angela’s LaPush hat {Ravelink}

Alice Cullen’s fingerless mittens {Ravelink}

Harry Potter Inspired

Hogwarts scarf {Ravelink}

Dark Mark illusion scarf {Ravelink}

Hermione Hat {Ravelink}

Transformers Inspired

Reversible Transformers Toque {Ravelink}

Starwars Inspired

Starwars Fairisle charts {Ravelink}

R2D2 Beanie {Ravelink}

Felted Baby Yoda Hat {Ravelink}

Tying Up Loose Ends

Friday, November 27th, 2009

This evening I treated myself to a night out at the theatre to see “Office Hours”, an intriguing play that weaves different perspectives of the same plot together in six different scenes.  It kept me thinking, and laughing while I was knitting for two hours.  I used this time to finish the mittens that I started at New Moon.  These are mittens knit on a deadline (something that I prefer to avoid).  They will be auctioned off for an environmental charity next week.

Pattern:  Fox and Geese {Ravelink}

Size: Adult small

Yarn: 100% Wool from Topsy Farm Amherst Island (bought at the Farmer’s market on Queen’s Campus) They also sell online.

These mittens have a nice long cuff that fits snugly to the wrist to keep hands warm, and keep the snow away.  I tried them on to take these pictures, and could feel that they will be very warm.  The pattern is knit carrying two colours so there are always short floats on the inside of the mitten.  This extra layer is what causes the mitten to be so warm.

The yarn feels very natural, as if there is still lanolin in it.  It will be a great to soothe chapped hands.

I literally was tying up loose ends and weaving them in to complete these mittens.  Next I will tie up loose ends to catch you up with some of my knitting that has traveled to far corners of the world recently.  It seems that most of my family members and friends here own something that I have knit for them.  I’m now starting to spread the love further afield.  When you receive a knitted gift you must realize that you are getting more than a garment, it is a gift of time and attention, thoughtfulness, and warmth.

I made this Baby Surprise Jacket {Ravelink} for a friend in Germany who just had her first baby.  She’s a knitter herself, but I don’t know if she’s ever tried this pattern.  It sure is a fun one to knit up.  I recommend it to brave knitters everywhere!

I made a Totoro bonnet {Ravelink} for a friend in Japan who has just had her second baby.  The ears don’t show up so well in the picture, but they are there.  A very nice pattern for a baby hat, with or without the ears and face.

Isnt she the cutest?

Isn't she the cutest?

A pair of mittens made their way to Amman Jordan for a friend I stayed with on a recent vacation.  She tells me that she will have use for them, as Jordan gets a little snow most winters.   I think I’d need a photo to prove it, Amman will always be over 30 C in my imagination!

The mittens were made from patterns found in Folk Knitting in Estonia by Nancy Bush, using wool from Topsy Farms.  I love that colour red.

There are more projects currently in the mail (but their future recipients may read this blog, so I will not discuss that further).  I look forward to hearing of their safe arrival.  Getting packages in the mail is such a novelty these days.

Have a happy Thanksgiving to those in the USA, and a happy Eid for all who are celebrating.


Thursday, November 26th, 2009

Today I knit a starfish.

I used a pattern which is a VERY easy combination of casting on and casting off and knitting.

When I was a counsellor at summer camp years ago, we were given a story to read during our staff training;  it was the story of the starfish, and it goes something like this:

The Story of The Starfish

A man was walking along a beach at low tide.  He saw a boy in the distance that looked like he was dancing into the water and back onto the beach.  As he got closer, he could see that the boy was not dancing, but reaching down to pick up starfish that had been stranded when the waters receded, and tossing them gently back into the water.

The man approached, and asked “why are you throwing starfish into the water?”

The boy replied,”the starfish will die otherwise.”

The man then asked, “what’s the point though?  There are hundreds of miles of beach, and thousands upon thousands of starfish.  How can you possibly make a difference?”

The boy silently stooped down to pick up another starfish from the beach, and tossed it gently back into the water.  “I certainly made a difference to that one!” He answered.

After reading this story, the symbolism of the starfish has stayed with me over the years.  Sometimes, when I notice people getting frustrated, and thinking that they can’t possibly make a difference, I print off the story of the starfish, and give it to them to remind them that they can make a difference, to one starfish at a time.

I’m going to send this knitted starfish in the mail.  I hope the recipient is surprised, and happy, and reminded that they too can make a difference to others, one person at a time.

Take the time to share the story of the starfish to people you know.  Knit them a starfish too!  It just takes 10 minutes, but it could make their day.


  • Directions: Cast on 10 stitches
  • Row 1: Knit 10
  • Row 2: Knit 10
  • Row 3: Cast off 7 stitches, knit the remaining 3 stitches
  • Row 4: Knit 3, now turn the needle round and now cast on 7 stitches. This splits the row to make the gaps between the legs.
  • Row 5: Knit 10
  • Row 6: Knit 10
  • Row 7: Cast off 7 stitches, knit the remaining 3 stitches
  • Row 8: Knit 3, now turn the needle round and now cast on 7 stitches.
  • Row 9: Knit 10
  • Row 10: Knit 10
  • Row 11: Cast off 7 stitches, knit the remaining 3 stitches
  • Row 12: Knit 3, now turn the needle round and now cast on 7 stitches.
  • Row 13: Knit 10
  • Row 14: Knit 11
  • Row 15: Cast off 7 stitches, knit the remaining 3 stitches
  • Row 16: Knit 3, now turn the needle round and now cast on 7 stitches.
  • Row 17: Knit 10
  • Row 18: Knit 10
  • Row 19: Cast off 7 stitches, knit the remaining 3 stitches
  • Row 20: Knit 3, now turn the needle round and now cast on 7 stitches.
  • Row 21: Knit 10
  • Row 22: Knit 10
  • Cast off 10 stitches
  • You should now have a knitted piece with 5 legs that needs to be stitched into a star shape

Creative Bookmarks

Tuesday, November 24th, 2009

After work today I found myself sitting down and doing Arts and Crafts with a few friends.  The goal was to produce creative bookmarks to promote the joy of reading.

I have been inspired this past month looking at so many beautiful pieces of mixed media art, and collage.  My friends and I sat down with beautiful paper, scissors and glue, and let the creative juices flow.

These bookmarks will be given with donated books to a local elementary school to promote reading and literacy.  As everyone is starting to think about holiday gift giving at this time of year, it is important to think of those less fortunate.  Check through your bookshelves and in your closets for gently used books, toys, games, and clothes that you may no longer use.  Consider making a donation to a local charity or school.  Every little bit goes a long way.

News from the knitting front (My top 10 list)

  1. I seem to be casting on projects WAY faster than I am finishing them.
  2. Inspiration hit me today for a new mitten design, and I am enjoying the challenge of creating a new illusion knit mitt pattern.
  3. The pattern involves corrugated ribbing, which looks very effective, but is not something that I am good at doing.
  4. I sold my first Red Olympic Mitten Pattern yesterday!  I’m very excited about that.
  5. December 1st is arriving quickly, and my Silent Auction Donation mittens are not done yet.  Perhaps another movie/knitting marathon is in order!
  6. Thrumming can’t be done without fluff ending up EVERYWHERE!
  7. Some projects that were once top secret will be disclosed tomorrow, after having arrived at their destinations overseas.
  8. Some projects have yet to arrive at their destinations! (I’m getting impatient!)
  9. Despite trying really hard to do so, I cannot knit in my sleep
  10. A scarf really is as tall as a person!  Get one out and measure….amazing eh?

Hippo’s Ugly Hat

Monday, November 23rd, 2009

Quick post for now.  Wanted to share the result of a challenge I was given last winter.  This young lady (nicknamed Hippo) brought me this pink “novelty” yarn one day.  (it is so gross.  I flinch at the texture, and the colour hurts my eyes).  She challenged me to knit her something with it, and that she’d happily wear it.

I figured that my few hours of torment creating the garment would be surpassed by her many hours of wearing it in public.  So, here is a hat for Hippo.

Knit from gross pink lumpy acrylic yarn, and the blue edging and pompom is from a different novelty yarn called “bling”.

Thanks Hippo, for being brave enough to show your face in this ugly hat all over the internet!

I don’t particularly enjoy knitting with acrylic, or novelty yarn in general.  I don’t appreciate the furry/fuzzy/sparkly/glittery fakeness of this yarn.  I much prefer to knit with wool.  This project reminded me of how wonderful wool is…even if it is scratchy wool!

Do you know how to tell if a yarn is natural fiber or acrylic/polyester fiber?

Burn it!  Yes, you heard correctly.  Light a candle, and hold a strand of the yarn over the flame.  As the flame burns through the yarn, examine what happens to the burnt ends.  When it is cooled, touch the ends of the yarn

  • If it forms an ash, powdery and black, that crumbles and falls off easily it is a NATURAL fiber.  (The burning yarn will probably also STINK)
  • If it forms a glob that sticks to the end of the string, it is an ARTIFICIAL fiber.
  • It could be a combination of natural and artificial fiber, and the ash/glob will be somewhere between the two extremes.

I asked some children this very question of identifying the source of different yarns.  It was interesting;  they judged it purely on the colour of the yarn!  If it was green, or brown, or beige, they said it was natural.  If it was blue, or purple, or red, they said it was artificial.

We later tried the burn test, and they realized that they had previously been using faulty criteria!

I hope Hippo doesnt ever try to burn her hat.  It would end up as a big glob of goo!