Knit Knit

For some odd reason I’ve been finding it difficult to get back into sewing. I have several projects that have been on hold, plus a couple of things to mend and a whole list of items I want to make. But so far…nope. Nothing doing.

Instead I’ve been knitting. I finished my Wolkig Cowl in my handspun Fernwood 2-ply yarn:

The pattern is a very easy one by Martina Behm from Knitty’s First Fall 2017 issue. It worked really well with the variegated yarn, neither getting lost in the colour changes nor obscuring them. The needle size was a little large (4mm) for this yarn which is slightly finer than regular fingering but the results are very soft and squishy and truly warm! Especially when I doubled the cowl on my neck. Mmmmmmm…

The cowl only used just under 90g of my 250g total of this yarn so of course I cast on for another accessory. This one is the Midas Hat by Laura Reinbach. I was going to make another Sockhead hat but the Midas has the extra-warm doubled band which is exactly what I was wishing for after a particularly cold walk a couple of weeks ago. There’s not enough of this project to show you yet.

I’m also finally plugging along on the self-designed Deciduous Pullover that I started way back in July of 2018. Somehow I got frustrated with how it was going and bailed on it for quite some time. I reassessed my issues with it and realised that I wasn’t going to have nearly enough of the main medium grey yarn to make it a tunic length, which was my first plan. So instead I went in the other direction and cropped it severely. With my fluffy belly this is only going to be wearable over dresses or longer tunics so we’ll have to see how much love it gets in the end. I’m on the last sleeve now and making use of my “sweater turntable” (I refuse to call it a Lazy Susan) to facilitate going around and around and around.

Thom made it for me and it wasn’t even properly finished before I snatched it into use. You can just see it under that heap of sweater. Guess I should have done a video so you can see how it rotates as I knit, huh? Too hard to hold the iPad and knit at the same time unfortunately. You’ll just have to use your imagination. The needles I’m using are my wee ChiaoGoo Mini Twist Shorties which work a treat for sleeve knitting. (I’ve mentioned them before on the blog here.) These 3.25mm tips are the largest size in this set so I was happy to discover that ChiaoGoo has come out with the companion larger tips set in the Blue case. So of course I had to have them too.

They go from 3.5mm to 5mm tips in 2″ and 3″ lengths. The connectors on this set are the Small size rather than the Mini ones of the Red case so they are not able to be combined together. But I don’t think that’s much of a drawback although I would like second sets of the stoppers so I can put two sleeves on hold at the same time. A possible future purchase! I’m pretty sure the eensy wee Mini ends would be too flimsy for the larger tips anyway so that’s likely why they went with the sturdier Small connectors on the new set. The blue cables are thicker as well. I now have really short circular needles in sizes 2mm to 5mm which should hopefully cover pretty much anything of a narrow circumference that I wish to knit. I rarely knit anything heavier than that anyhow. Oh, and I’m currently using the longer 3.25mm tips with the longest cable (Red set) to knit my Midas Hat so they are definitely getting a workout!

As I’ve mentioned before short circulars are probably not for everyone. Even I still prefer dpns for sock knitting though I did knit one pair successfully with the Shorties. So far I’m finding them most useful for sleeves and hats and necklines where even a 16″ circular is too long. The modular system of interchangeable needles makes them very adaptable to different situations. These little guys fill some of the gaps left by my Addi Lace Clicks which only go down to 3.5mm tips and 16″ length. As you might be noticing, I spend a lot of time knitting so to me it’s totally worth having the tools that I enjoy using. There’s a lot of options out there these days – enough to make every knitter happy.

Clarity in 2020

Well here we are in the New Roaring 20’s! I’ve chosen the theme of “clarity” for this year since “2020” calls up associations with good vision. (Not that my own vision is actually 20/20 or anything!) I intend to focus on clearing out the junk, clarifying my future goals and generally looking to clear my head of all the negative emotions that are floating about. Don’t know about you, but I’m trying desperately to hold onto my peaceful little corner of the world. This is my 70th year of life and I can’t guess how many more years I’ll have left but I don’t plan to give up what is important to me anytime soon. All I can do is carry on the best way I know how. And keep making stuff, using what I already have as much as possible, and trying to live a little lighter on my poor abused planet. We can only do what we can only do, right?

So. I promised a bit of a retrospect of last year’s makes. The stats are interesting considering I didn’t think I’d done much! I finished a total of 39 projects: 33 sewing (including helping the granddaughter with The Beast), 5 knitting and 1 dye. The UFOs were 3 sewing, 2 knitting and 2 spinning for a total of 7. That seems like more uncompleted projects than I usually have ongoing but I guess not really since I often cut a half-dozen items out before I sew them.

A selection of successful sewing (and knitting)

Interestingly, I made more dresses this year than tops. Does that mean that my personal style is shifting? I seem to feel more comfortable in longer lengths but I still wear either shorts, leggings or pants underneath. My fondness for layers isn’t going away! I did discover a hole in my wardrobe however. After I reorganised all my drawers it seems that I don’t have many long-sleeved tops left anymore. I bought several lengths of suitable knits quite awhile ago but hadn’t gotten around to sewing it up. So solving that issue is on the agenda in a top position.

And there’s still some garments I want to make for Thom. I have the patterns and fabrics. I just have to do it. He doesn’t have nearly as many clothes as I do. Since he mostly wears shirts, pullovers (or sweaters) and jeans his needs are pretty simple. But he’s beginning to be quite spoiled with his “bespoke” wardrobe! More men’s sewing coming up.

Other than those things I don’t really need anything else until something wears out. Not that a lack of need will stop the wants. Just wait until I start going through the stashes during that section of the Make Space Project! It’ll remind me what I’ve already got until I’ll have a long queue lining up for future makes.

Meanwhile, I did finish one spinning project that’s been worked on in fits and starts for a year, the Fernwood yarn.

This is the first of 3 skeins

The fibre is 250g of New Zealand Corriedale in the colourway “Fernwood” purchased from my friend Andrea when she owned Aurelia Fibres. FYI, these rovings are now sold by Dewedlebug Fibre Emporium (Alberta) and their Fernwood seems a little brighter than mine if I can judge by the computer screen. Instead of being dye-painted the roving has the colours in carded strips aligned lengthwise. Sorry I didn’t save a bit unspun to show you (or a photo) but this makes a somewhat more blended effect when spun from the roving just as it presents itself. I spun one bobbin-full (half of the 250g) that way but for the second half I decided to strip the colours to separate them as best I could. I spun 6-10″ lengths in a sort of random-ish order which definitely made longer areas of a single colour.

Bottom: first bobbin; top: second bobbin

You can sort-of see the different effects in the above photo. (Note the photo of the finished skein shows the colours more accurately than this one.) Then I plied the two bobbins together for a kind of faux-fractal. I ended up with three skeins, two larger and one smaller, totalling about 980 yards of fingering weight. Why is it that 2 bobbins full of singles often don’t ply into just 2 bobbins full of plied yarn? I guess it doesn’t pack as closely together as the singles so there are going to be leftovers! Anyway, the amount isn’t quite enough for a sweater but a lot more than I needed for my intended project. I started with the little skein.

Cowl beginning

Yes, I started another knitting project still with two UFOs haunting me! Pfttt… This is the Wolkig Cowl by Martina Behm from Knitty, First Fall 2017. It’s deceptively simple to knit so you can guarantee I’ll be finished in a jiffy! I like the way the variegations in the yarn don’t clash with the puffy knit texture as it would if it were lace or cables. I have no idea what else I’ll make from this yarn. Maybe a hat? More fingerless mitts? At this rate I’ll end up with a matched set.

Progress

Well here are some actual completed projects to show off! On the Make Space Project we’ve finally finished the kitchen section. I decided to just “git ‘er done” so after locating my original patterns for the foam padding, we ordered the pieces cut. Then we went to good old Dressew and found some good-enough dark red velvet-ish upholstery fabric. It unfortunately was a limited bolt and already cut into three pieces so I was unsure of how the pattern would lay out especially since it was only 56″ wide instead of 60″. So to be safe I bought the whole lot, just over 4 metres total, when I really only needed less than 3. At only $9.99 per metre it wasn’t a big sacrifice. There’s leftover pieces which can become some throw pillows for the front room couch eventually.

So there were four antique oak chairs and a stool to cover. The last time I reupholstered them, I not only did the seats but also made back cushions for three of the chairs that hang from tabs tacked to the chair back. This made them a lot more comfortable so of course I went all out and did that again. Also I hadn’t ever reupholstered the stool before which was originally covered with some tacky vinyl. The other pieces are over 100 years old but the stool is probably only from the 1960’s or ’70’s. (There’s actually two of them that were dumped on given to us decades ago but one lives in the basement so I cheerfully ignored it.) Thom took the upstairs stool completely apart and sanded and refinished the legs and rungs so it looks much nicer now.

Every piece of furniture in the kitchen has a family story!

The newly spiffed up kitchen chairs
Granny’s chair
The stool, which I mostly use to reach high shelves

In the first photo (which is somewhat more yellow than it should be thanks to the artificial lights) you can also see our new window above the kitchen table. Now I can sit at the table and not feel like I’m sitting next to a refrigerator with the door opened! The horrible old drafty louvered window should have been replaced 40 years ago when we did the other one. But we held off thinking we’d do something different like a larger window or a bay window or even a door to a solarium. Never happening. And then there was another year-long delay because we had trouble finding a company that would just make and install one itty bitty window. The building trades are so busy here that we were just too small potatoes to even get a call back on inquiries. However, we did finally get an excellent reference and they were great. Git ‘er done, eh?

We’re now taking a well-deserved break on the Make Space Project until after the New Year. It took nearly three months to do one half of the main floor! Whew. Hopefully the living/dining room and entry hall won’t take quite so long. Unfortunately there’s some more reupholstering to be considered there but since I’m not able to do such complex chairs myself, we’ll need to find someone else to do it. That’s going to be spendy for sure! I’m going to be lazy and not worry about reupholstering our old hand-built couch/TV table/bookshelf/spare bed but just clean it up as best I can. Just remind me I said that when I get tempted to go all out on it, won’t you? More on this section of the house when I get there.

So what else is there to discuss? Oh yeah. I finished knitting a sweater.

Sammal Cardigan

This is the Sammal cardigan, pattern by Joji Locatelli, yarn 100% Peruvian Highland wool (Cloudborn Fibers wool fingering twist) in Iron Heather. I probably should have gone up one size since I didn’t quite get gauge in this yarn even after going up a needle size. But it’s not too obviously tight. I increased at the sides somewhat to compensate for the pattern being straight from the underarm to the hem. I am definitely not! It’s a beautifully written pattern and I like the extra-warm sand stitch texture and the cute little opposing cables in the front. It’s knitted from the top down in one piece which is my favourite method for sweaters.

I counted up all my Finished and Unfinished Objects for 2019 and I’ll have a quick review in the next post. I’ve been feeling rather unproductive but there were more than I thought!

Interlude

We took a few days to escape the city for camping at Lightning Lake in beautiful E.C. Manning Provincial Park. The weather was most definitely chilly and changeable. We had sun, rain, cloud and wind – often all in the same hour! Luckily we’re quite used to the mountains and brought appropriate clothing and footwear along with our little propane heater for the evening. Thom’s brother and sister-in-law were kind enough to share their site with us so we had two blue VW Westfalias parked together. Theirs is a lighter blue and ours is a navy blue and they were purchased within a few months of each other over 30 years ago. Much camping has ensued ever since!

Lightning Lake, EC Manning Provincial Park

We saw some wildlife including loons, a momma merganser with 10 babies, a pika (in the rockfall you can see in the upper photo), a pileated woodpecker, deer and a bear on the side of the road on the way home. Trout were caught, trails were hiked and flowers were photographed.

Wildflowers
More wildflowers

I collaged a few of them for you! There’s too many more and although I can identify many of them, I don’t know all their names.

I also managed to finish those socks that have been on the needles forever.

Self-Striping Socks

The yarn is the no-longer-made DGB Confetti from a no-longer-in-business shop. What does that tell you about working from Deepest Stash? Love the colours obviously! The pattern is my usual top-down heel-flap basic socks on 64 stitches. No need to mess with something that works just perfect for my feet, eh? And then I started a new pair, this one’s for Thom.

Beaded Rib Socks

The rib pattern is from Charlene Schurch’s Sensational Knitted Socks book. It’s only 2 rounds and easy to follow so these shouldn’t take too long. Notice that I’ve gone back to my Knitter’s Pride cubic needles? These are still my favourite way to knit socks. Even though my wee ChiaoGoo Minis are rather adorable. I will use them again soon anyway. Oh and the yarn is Trekking XXL and I quite like all the subtle colours that add up to brown. Almost made a pair for me with it but Thom won out. These are on 70 stitches since that’s what divided into the pattern’s 5-stitch repeat. I usually make his plain socks on 68 stitches.

So. Must run. My fishies need to be fried up in butter for supper now!

Garden vs Studio

Two of our rhododendrons in full bloom

Hope you’re having a lovely May wherever you are! Yes, I realise our Southern Hemisphere folks are heading for colder weather. But they were complaining of the heat when we were freezing up here so it’s only fair to turn the tables, right? Heh. Anyway, I’ve written a dozen delightful posts in the last few weeks – but unfortunately they were only in my head! My hands were very busy.

I’ve been trying to get the garden, especially the vegetable garden, into some kind of shape now that the weather has actually warmed up enough. I’m forced to dig the beds deeply twice in order to eliminate as many of the walnut roots as possible. English (aka Persian) walnut trees don’t produce as much juglone, a toxin that inhibits nearby competition, as black walnut does but I do see a difference in some plants not being as vigorous near our monster tree.

Walnut tree just getting its baby leaves. It’s always this late!

The ancient beast is over 50 feet tall and wide and the roots extend even farther out than the canopy does! The greenhouse is now partially under said canopy and this year the root situation is ridiculous. I needed Thom’s help to dig the tomato beds in there and after only clearing half of it we dumped five (5!) buckets of roots into the city’s green bin.

The right half still to go. Whew.

I think those walnut roots were way too happy to grow in the dry and slightly warmer (at least in the daytime) soil in there all winter. Yeesh. I managed to only (only!) get less than two buckets of roots from what will be the squash and bean bed, even after going over it twice. But then it’s a little farther away from the walnut tree too.

Dig Dig Dig

After we finish the greenhouse there’s only a bit of tidying to do around the edges and I can call the veggie garden prep done. Still have to plant the beans and cucumbers and transplant tomato and squash seedlings yet though. Gardening is kind of like housework. It’s never really done! Although this is definitely the busiest time of the whole year out there. Once everything is planted it’s down to watering and weeding. And harvesting.

Baby greens (and reds)

When I got too tired to mess about in the garden I switched to my studio. I’ve mostly been working on my patterns, assembling PDF printouts and doing fit adjustments. Once they’re all ready to be used I can just grab whichever one I need to cut out without having to stop and prep the next pattern. I’ve also cut out a total of 8 projects already (all knits) but haven’t started sewing them together yet.
What can I say? I was on a roll! I’m going to have to sew them soon though because at least 3 of these are test garments, aka “wearable muslins” (or toiles, depending on your country of origin). I need to see how they work out before cutting any more using those patterns. Just in case any adjustments need to be made.

In other crafty news, my hands are too tired to do anything else! I did finish my Blue Dragon socks (pattern is “Shur’tugal” from Alice Yu’s book Socktopus) if you missed it on Insta.

Blue Dragon Socks

The yarn is from Black Cat Custom Yarn, colourway “In the Navy” and for once I pretty much followed the pattern except that I made the leg longer so the socks come up above the top of my Blundstones. Other than this though, I have barely touched needles or spinning wheel for ages. I did do a wee bit of dyeing however, but I’ll save that for another post.

Oh, you might be interested in this last tidbit: I finally got three separate offers for my bead de-stash, all within 24 hours of each other! Talk about synchronicity, eh? A whole month after I put them up for sale. Unfortunately I had to tell everyone that they were already gone home with my sister. You snooze, you lose. Might have actually made a few bucks (sigh) but at least my sis is happy!

Can’t you just smell them? I sure can. Atchoo!!

Quick Catch-Up

Still plugging away at the Goldstream Peacoat. It’s been a big job! Bigger than I expected going in anyway. I’ve ended up hand-sewing a whole lot more than I originally planned both because I have more control over the stitches and because it got pretty darned hard to get this beast under the presser foot! I ended up having to move a bunch of stuff off my sewing table because it all kept ending up on the floor as I wrestled the coat around on the sewing machine. I have to say that Janny the Janome held up very well to this thick fabric plus layers of interfacing. As long as I could get the thing under the presser foot it would sew through it. I only ran into an issue (bobbin thread nests) as I was doing the topstitching on the fronts and around the collar. Probably because I was turning the whole coat around with the needle down. Not perfect but done.

Here’s a couple of teaser photos so you can see the lining. Debbie Double is wearing the coat inside out!

Coat lining with inside pocket
Back facing with my label

Lots of critters in them thar woods, eh? I edged the lining with flat piping made from the sleeve lining fabric and I think it looks pretty neat. Now I’m sewing the sleeve linings which are the last pieces to assemble and sew in. By hand. Of course. All that’s left after that are the buttonholes and 3 buttons. Also by hand. Of course. It’s still going to take a few more days before this thing is completed. I’m kind of ready for it to be finished now.

One other thing I did was to begin a new pair of socks to try out my wee ChiaoGoo Shorties. They work quite well for me, at least on this simple basic sock. I used some DBG Confetti yarn that I totally love because it wears really well but is now discontinued. Boo-hoo. Self-striping socks are so old-fashioned now, aren’t they? I still like them though. What I don’t like is the stitch marker! The thickness leaves a bit of a ladder in the knitting which you might be able to just detect there above the pink marker. Changing it out for a thinner one now. Besides pink is my least favourite colour.

Self-striping socks on a 2mm tiny circular


Crafty Woman

The Peacoat Project is coming along. But how about a wee digression? Mostly because I’m kind of tired of semi-couture tailoring! And I do mean a “wee” digression. See?

ChiaoGoo TWIST Shorties

Apparently ChiaoGoo means “crafty woman” in Chinese and this is a really small set of interchangeable knitting needles. I heard all you going “Wait! What?” But I’ll show them to you first before I give you my reasoning behind this purchase. They are absolutely adorable!

All this is packed into that little red pouch: 6 sets of needle tips from 2mm-3.25mm in two lengths (2” and 3”) in their own little case, a needle gauge, 4 keys, 6 resin stitch markers, 3 cables (5”, 6” and 8”) 2 teensy-tiny little cable connectors, and 2 end stoppers. The TWIST connectors are the “mini” size, the smallest anyone makes and all are compatible with ChiaoGoo’s other mini items. Don’t believe me when I say how small these are? Evidence!

Mini connections

And I have really small hands too. They are beautifully machined from surgical stainless steel and the cables are flexible coated woven wire. I’m going to have to be careful with the tiny connectors so they don’t get lost but luckily replacements are also available separately. Also stoppers, tips, cables, etc. The connections are quite secure when you use the keys that look suspiciously like T-pins and the transitions all seem smooth.

Which leads me to the “why” of this needle set. As you might know I have a pretty full set of Addi Lace Clicks as my go-to interchangeable needles. But they only go down to 3.25mm needle tips and the shortest cable/needle combo is 16”. Good sizes for hats but not for sleeves or socks. I found this helpful chart online for the Shorties set:

Source: fiberific.com.au

It shows how many different lengths you can obtain by combining tips and cables. There was some talk about the company increasing the available tip sizes but that doesn’t seem to have happened. That would have made these more useful for sleeves in larger gauges. I don’t know what the hold-up is but it could be that the wee connections are just too small to support heavier tips. ChiaoGoo does also have a mini set with 5” tips from 1.5mm-2.5mm and 3 longer cables plus pieces are available separately too so smaller obviously works fine! And there’s a small-cable to large-tip adapter so if they could come out with a mini-small adapter you could add heavier tips that way. I’ll wait and see how it goes. Anyway, I thought this Shorties set would cover an empty space in my rather vast knitting needle collection. Life is too short to put up with crappy tools, amirite?

I generally knit socks on 2mm dpns (my favourite being the Knitter’s Pride Cubics) and I don’t enjoy Magic Loop at all. So the smallest size of these would be perfect. I also knit on 2 socks at the same time so I can either use the stoppers when I switch to the second sock or if the circumference is wide enough, use a differential (one of each tip length). We’ll see how it works in practice though, huh?

All that said, I wouldn’t recommend the Shorties for just any knitter! As I’ve mentioned, my hands are very small so the tiny sizes of these needles aren’t really a problem for me. I often work in fine yarns and small gauges so the tip sizes are in my ballpark. But your hands may cramp up trying to grip tiny needles or you might prefer knitting with heavier weight yarns so these would not be for you at all. They also seem to be rather scarce so you might have trouble finding a vendor. I went through Amazon.ca and it took about a month to come. From Germany! Go figure. Though since then I’ve discovered a more local source for the stoppers and connectors and such. They don’t have the Shorties kit though.

Anyway I’m looking forward to casting on something and trying them out! However, I still have 2 knitting projects to finish first. And let us not forget, The Peacoat! Today’s progress:

Handmade shoulder pads

Cotton muslin cover over 4 layers of cotton quilt batting. I made them slightly asymmetrical and with the longer side to the back, they fit well. Next step – getting the sleeves in. And a plethora of catch-stitching inside.

“It’s the coat that never ends. It just goes on and on, my friends!”