Wednesday, December 09, 2015

hillier hearts cap

Oh, this poor neglected space! To think I released a knitting pattern last week and have only thought to mention it here now. Instagram really has won me over, but still, this blog is a dear, old friend. Ten years ago this past summer, when I was in the middle of my maternity leave with Sadie and feeling super productive, I wrote my very first post. That's a pretty long commitment in this ever-changing world of ours, right? But before I start equating the length of my blog relationship with how much older I must be, I'll stop and get to the task at hand: a new knitting pattern!

After tackling my first ever colourwork project (the Baa-ble Hat), I tried Diana Walla's Laurus Hat which was part of Karen's #fringehatalong. Quickly I knit two of them, and realized that I needed to keep practicing colourwork. So over a summertime baseball game I sketched out and tried a simple 3-colour pattern of hearts. Then I tried it a second time. And a third. And then in a different size. And by then I had a pretty solid hat pattern that I was REALLY having fun knitting. I knit another two hats, gathered all my notes and measurements and decided this could be my first "official" pattern - a pattern I took seriously and had tech edited, test knit and photographed by a real photographer. Not because I'm looking to trade my day job to be a knitwear (or sewing pattern) designer, but because I have these ideas I just love developing and sharing. Truthfully, I'm very happy to knit from patterns, but I simply can't stop myself from creating my own. And out of respect for the hard work and awesome talent of the knitwear designers I admire and purchase patterns from, I've decided to focus on my own production quality and place a value on the end product (vs. providing the patterns for free). It's a small step, but hopefully one that contributes to the overall karma of the fibre community.

And so here it is, the HILLIER HEARTS CAP! The pattern is available on Ravelry and it's a quick knit with just enough colourwork to be entertaining without being overwhelming. Great for small amounts of worsted weight yarn, this is the kind of project that most knitters can make from their stash although I do highly recommend Brooklyn Tweed Shelter (among many other reasons, combining three colours from that thoughtful palette is pure joy). Oh, and the name background is this: each year we spend a week in Prince Edward County, Ontario, and it's the one week my mind winds down, allowing all sorts of creative thoughts to start connecting. It just seems fitting to name my patterns after the villages, townships and hidden gems of a place that so significantly inspires another year of making. 

And because it's Yarnalong day, here's a very quick recap of my Canadian-heavy reading from the past two months: The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark got deep into the characters and I will forever remember the opening paragraph (what a way to start a story!); Sweetland by Michael Crummey was everything I'd hoped for from Crummey - an intense exploration of the geography of a remote island in the Atlantic, as experienced by the man bearing the same name (and oh, how I cried at the loss of one of the characters!); Man by Kim Thuy was lyrical and such a treat to read, though the style actually influenced my interpretation of the main character, and I kept thinking of her as quite detached; and then finally The Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell, which took me on a fairy-tale like journey through Paris with an orphan, her quirky guardian and some lost, but adventurous children. It wasn't Canadian or even meant for adults, but Sadie recommended it to me and I was charmed by the girl with "hair the colour of lightning" and touched that she believed her mother was still alive and waiting to be found. 

Knitting and reading, truly the very best of companions, right? For more stories of knitting and reading visit Ginny for today's Yarnalong.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

pattern release

Did I just type the words "pattern release"?

Yep, and I also just had to catch my breath as soon as I typed them. Because instantly my heart started racing and I got a little shaky. I've got a whole bunch of emotions swirling around, but one thing is for certain: a sewing pattern that I've been working on has been released today. Gasp.

Okay, with that now said, let me fill in the story.

About a year ago I was tinkering with a tunic design when Elizabeth, the amazing woman behind Squam Art Workshops, suggested a collaboration to make this pattern available to others. I was thrilled at the idea - and also terrified - but Elizabeth's "let's just try it" attitude was SO inspiring. We jumped in even though it was an entirely new project for both of us. A few roadblocks and many revisions later, I can wholeheartedly say that the journey towards today's release has been...wonderful.

The pattern is called the West Water Tunic, fittingly named for one of the cabins at Squam. As a garment, it's simple, comfortable and customizable. I have a strong bias for sewing the tunic with Robert Kaufman's Essex Yarn Dyed Linen (my closet and Instagram feed can attest to that!) but I can't wait to see it made with other fabrics. Personally I've lined up some fine wale corduroy for my next one.

As for the "terrified" bit of the story, I must admit that putting something out there in the world is scary. My inner voice keeps asking, what if I missed a spelling mistake? What if my way of writing instructions is really unclear? What if I get called out for not being a professional something-or-other? Fingers crossed this kind of paranoia is natural. To distract myself from worrying, I'm trying to focus on what I've learned through this collaboration. Skills like grading to layout design are great, but they actually give way to a much bigger lesson, and one that I should have learned - or better yet, realized - long ago: I love designing clothes. Not just making, actually designing. It might sound small, but it's quite a significant acknowledgment for me. And I have Elizabeth, and this project, and the very fact that I attended Squam in 2014 to thank for it.

But enough about my inner dialogue, there's a pattern to share! More information about the digital and paper version of West Water Tunic pattern can be found at the Squam site here, and Elizabeth's pitch perfect introduction is here.

Phew, secret project officially shared. And now I've got some corduroy to wash up and start cutting out. 

Happy sewing!

(And wow, thank you, thank you Elizabeth - for your courage, patience, kind words and excellent vision. You're simply amazing.)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

intro to colourwork

Last year it was lace, this year it's definitely colourwork. This is what I love about knitting - there is always something to learn that instantly opens up a whole new realm of possibilities.

I first spied the Baa-ble Hat pattern on Instagram in the spring, designed by Donna Smith for Shetland Wool Week. It seemed fitting that my first colourwork project would involve lambs, and looking back, I'm sure that's what gave me the final nudge to tackle this technique. Because really, shouldn't it be a requirement that I own at least one garment with lambs on it? Especially one as irresistible as this? It didn't take long to realize that the allure of colourwork is getting the chance to put colours together, to plan out a combo that is unique, appealing and has enough contrast for the design to stand out. My single-ball stash was the perfect source for the project, and although the weights aren't exactly consistent, I think the colour combo worked out...even if purple skies aren't really a thing. My floats are rather wonky, but blocking helped smooth them out, and now I know that's where I need the most practice (and thanks to Karen's #fringehatalong, I've been able to practice a lot!) Oh, and the other thing I know for sure? I have WAY more colourwork in my future.

It's been a long time since I posted, but I've made my way through a few books since then (Neil Gaiman's The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Aislinn Hunter's The World Before Us, Elle Luna's The Crossroads of Should and Must, Jonas Karlsson's The Room: A Novel and Sarah Addison Allen's Garden Spells). They were all various levels of okay, but I'm super excited by the novel I started on Monday, The Birthday Lunch by Joan Clark. Years ago I absolutely LOVED An Audience of Chairs and about 1/4 of the way in, I'm totally compelled by the story and characters. I heart Joan Clark.

For more knitting and reading catch ups, visit Ginny's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

mystery fun

Test knitting was so much fun that I decided to try something else new from the world of knitting: a Mystery Knitalong! It helped that Annie was hosting, and that her design was inspired by Hole & Sons wool, and that I had some hand-dyed yarn on hand from Annie's friend really, there was no resisting. And again, it was a fantastic experience that I will gladly try again.

The pattern turned out to be a shawl and it's probably the largest lace project I've tackled yet. Breaking the chart into 4 clues kept my fear of big charts in check, and it was a very easy, straightforward lace design (even if I had to re-do multiple rows while at Squam - but that's because I clearly can't knit lace and talk at the same time!). Now that I've blocked the shawl, the lace is quite dreamy and I can't quite believe it's the result of such simple stitches. But that is exactly the magic of lace, and knitting in general, right?

The yarn is pretty scrumptious too. I used Beaverslide Dry Goods Merino, hand-dyed by Ashley of Woolful as part of her Spring Natural Dye Club. The soft yellow immediately reminded me of a longtime friend whose childhood home was painted this very colour, and she's turning 40 in a few days so this shawl felt destined to be hers the moment I started it. 

As for reading, I TOTALLY failed on my Canadian Book Challenge this year. I was supposed to have read 13 Canadian novels by July 1st, and even with the two above I only managed 8. Mme Proust and the Kosher Kitchen was interesting, but slow moving. I wouldn't rush to recommend it, yet there are moments, characters and places that have stuck with me. But All My Puny Sorrows was entirely captivating and it didn't take long to devour. There's something about Miriam Toews writing that just hooks me, even though the struggles she explores are usually far from my own experiences. I appreciate the honesty with which she writes about mental health and I love her depictions of family dynamics. It's a tough, heartfelt story but oh-so-worth the read.

For more tales of knitting and reading, don't forget to visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

test success

Sometimes when you're really busy, you decide to take on just one more thing. Totally normal, right?

I have never been a test knitter before, but as soon as I saw Annie's sneak peek of this tee pattern on Instagram I threw my name into the ring. And the whole process - from struggling to get gauge, to visiting multiple yarn shops, to racing against the clock before our road trip, to running out of wool on the road trip and magically finding one more ball (which meant one more yarn shop), to weaving in the final end - was SO MUCH FUN. I would happily test knit again, especially for a pattern as awesome as this one.

The pattern is called Morning Mist, now available on Ravelry. It's a summer tee with a lovely lace panel along the back that adds texture and interest. The construction is super simple and although I knit it all in one colour, the pattern actually suggests a contrasting colour for the panel, opening up so many great options. I ended up using Rowan's Wool Cotton, so my tee has a substantial amount of drape because of the weight of the cotton, but it helps pull the sleeve edges down, creating a shape I just love. I only wish I'd had enough wool in one dye lot - I ran out just before the edging, so if you look closely you can tell the edges are a different shade. Live and learn. Oh, but the biggest thing I learned in the whole process? I'm a tight knitter. That's the kind of information that will save me oodles of time in the future.

For my reading update, I'm slowly making my way through Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen, but an arrival today may prove too hard to resist. I swear All My Puny Sorrows by Miriam Toews is calling out to me from the Amazon box. Books can be ruthless that way.

For more tales of knitting and reading, visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

road trip knitting

Time flies, doesn't it?

We recently went on a road trip to Florida which meant we had roughly 44 hours of driving time. That meant lots and lots of knitting for me (when I wasn't stressing about my navigation duties, that is). It was the part of the trip I was looking forward to the most because otherwise my knitting happens in tiny pockets of time. Hours of uninterrupted knitting was simply amazing. The bulk of what I worked on was a test knit for byAnnieClaire, which I'll share as soon as the pattern is released (pssst: it's lovely and perfect for the summer!). But I also knit up these wristlets, which have become my go-to gift pattern. They are based on Sarah Compton's foliage lace mitts, just without the shaping and thumb gussets. I love the simple lace pattern! We actually stopped in Washington during our drive and I got 20 minutes in a great wool shop called Looped Yarn Works where I happily picked up more of Quince & Co's Tern in this soft gray/blue colourway called Mist. Tern is perfect for these wristlets and it was fun to contain the whole project to the drive, from buying and winding the yarn to weaving in the very last end. It will be my road trip knitting memory, which gets folded into all the other memories of the vacation. All combined, it was a wonderful trip.

I've been dragging my heels a bit on my reading challenge this year. At least in this batch I have two Canadian selections: How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti and Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery. Heti's novel was compelling but for an unusual reason - I actually went to school with one of the fairly-real characters, and although I didn't know her very well, it was strange to read the story without constantly imagining her. I've never had that extra level to deal with and it made the reading experience quite bizarre, though since the storytelling is likely considered experimental autobiography, bizarre is probably bang on. As for the classic Anne of Green Gables, which I had never read, Sadie highly recommended it to me and I'm so glad she did. Anne is charming, the cast of characters playful and endearing and the small town east coast setting was a pure joy. Sadie has the whole Anne set, so I just might move on to Anne of Avonlea next. My one non-Canadian read, Wildflower Hill by Kimberley Freeman, also had a great setting. Following the separate storylines of a grandmother and granddaughter as they live on a sheep farm in rural Tasmania, the sweeping story had great struggles, great loves and a great side story about the wool fashion business the grandmother built from scratch. As a sewer and knitter, what else could I ask for?

For more musings on reading and knitting, visit Ginny's Yarnalong.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

kingsley for a day

Yes, I have a few handknit hats already. But it's darn cold this winter and I needed a tighter, warmer brim (says the knitter looking for a new project). Oh, and I'd been eyeing the Kingsley Hat by Dreareneeknits for a little while and just couldn't resist any longer.

Using Quince & Co's Owl yarn in the lovely Amethyst colourway, the pattern was quick to knit, easy to follow and so far, pretty great to wear. I've found Alpaca itchy before, but not so with this wool/alpaca blend. Though the rustic nature of the wool means the seed stitch pattern is a bit quieter visually, but I quite like the subtlety. And for no clear reason I felt the final hat just needed a dark grey pompom, which my stash came to the rescue for. Stashes are great for that.

On the book front, although I most often share the fiction I'm reading, there are always a few non-fiction books hanging around my bedside. For some reason I'm monogamous with fiction, but not so much with non-fiction. These three represent my current faves: a business book about hiring the right people (Who by Geoff Smart and Randy Street), Patti Smith's autobiographical musings (beautifully titled Woolgathering) and Rebecca Solnit's poetic The Faraway Nearby. All three are unfinished, picked up every now and then when the need for business advice, family insight or moments of beauty arises. 

For more knitting and reading updates, visit today's Yarnalong.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

nordic wondershawl

Over the holidays Ashley at Woolful hosted a knitalong for the Nordic Wind Shawl by cabinfour. The design is simple and the colour palette elegant, so I just couldn't resist joining in (and I highly recommend checking out cabinfour's other patterns - her aesthetic is terrific). The shawl called for Lopi wool which I've never used, so it was also a great chance to go outside my yarn box. On a road trip to Peterborough we found a sweet little shop that carried Istex's Lopi yarn, but I could only find three colours instead of the four required. It was in the bulky weight though, so I reasoned that the heavier weight would go farther. Luckily it did.

Lopi wool is unusual. I expected it to be coarse, but it wasn't really (I actually find Cascade 220 harder on my skin). It's surprisingly light and airy, as though there is a hollow core inside the fibres. It blocked nicely and the colours are so subtle and natural. The finished shawl is super satisfying to wear, but almost more satisfying to see lying on the sofa. Really, it was a perfect mid-winter project and I was a little sad it came together so fast.

Woolful itself has been incredibly inspiring these past few months. It wasn't long ago that I started following Ashley on Instagram, but with each new initiative she shares I get more and more inspired. Suddenly I'm thinking more about my yarn purchases, considering the processing and people behind it, and every week I'm so excited to sit down with my knitting and listen to her wonderful podcast. Each episode includes two casual interviews with fibre artists and businesses. The conversations are insightful, thought-provoking and make my mind buzz with ideas. Podcasts weren't a part of my life before, but now I impatiently wait for Tuesday's newest release. And after watching this video, I had to sign up for Woolful's Spring Natural Dye Club (I cannot wait for that magical delivery!). Ashley is bringing together the fibre community in sincere and wonderful ways, and I'm so thankful to be following her journey.

On the reading front, I finished up Ruth Ozeki's A Tale for the Time Being. I loved it for so many reasons: the question of time and how you can affect it; Nao's Buddhist nun great-grandmother and her insightful lessons; island living in BC juxtaposed with big city Japanese culture; and Ozeki's innovative approach to bringing it all together. I took my time getting through it, but mainly because I was savouring every turn of events and every windy storm that blew through the island trees. Overall a great pick for the Canadian Book Challenge. And as a light, quick follow-up read, I flew through Sarah Addison Allen's The Sugar Queen. Nothing like some magical realism to indulge in just before Valentine's Day.

For more reading and knitting stories, visit today's Yarnalong. And for an inspiring dose of fibre goodness, check out this week's podcast over at Woolful or on iTunes.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

hobbies for hibernation

In the deep freeze of winter, there is always knitting. 

Back in the summer I made my first Undersea Garden Cowl and I wear it constantly. Easily seduced by Quince and Co's website, I ordered more Tern to make myself another, convinced my colleagues at work might wonder why an obsessive knitter wears the same garment every day. But that's classic knitter's "justification"; I just wanted new yarn and a reason to keep knitting.

Tern is my favourite yarn right now and the Syrah colourway is as wonderful as Dusk. It's taking serious discipline to stop myself from ordering more colours, and I'm so inspired seeing Ashley using the yarn for a whole sweater. It shows off lace patterns beautifully and really brings the Undersea Garden Cowl to life. This time I blocked the cowl and not only can I see the lace better, but the yarn also softens considerably. Basically I can't say enough awesome things about it.

Sitting under a special skein of yarn from Camellia Fiber Company are the two books I finished up over the holidays. Mira Bartok's The Memory Palace was a compelling memoir of Bartok's experience with her mother, a woman who suffered from mental illness from a young age and spent many years homeless. Bartok purposefully disappeared from her mother's life and changed her name, an act that haunted her daily although it meant she could lead a life that allowed her time and creative energy. And for my Canadian Book Challenge I got through Tish Cohen's The Truth About Delilah Blue. I'd started it during last year's challenge but it didn't grab me then. But while waiting for an Amazon order to arrive I gave it another try and this time it stuck. I always struggle with stories set in Toronto, as if the familiar mentions diminish the magic I'm hoping for when I read. Luckily the story shifted from Toronto to LA, and that made all the difference. It was entertaining with a hint of college art student life and family drama, but most of all I'm glad I finished it. Half-read novels make me anxious.

For more knitting and reading recommendations, check out Ginny's Yarnalong.