Here & There: All-my-projects-are-secret edition


It’s that time of year again (already) when pretty much everything I’m working on is a Christmas gift and thus, secret. I am knitting like crazy over here, and can’t really show you a thing. So, in lieu of lovely projects (they’re here on Rav, if you’re curious) here are some things I’ve been enjoying/reading in the last little while.

  • I knit a ton of stranded colour work at this time of year, and this tutorial, about how to quickly and easily catch long floats as you knit, is amazing. I definitely didn’t catch every second stitch, but there are some loooong floats in this pattern, and this technique made keeping them snug much, much easier.
  • I loved this Slate piece about Apple’s Notes app and all the weird things we use it for. I don’t actually use Apple Notes, but I do use my Android’s notes app, and Evernote, for all kinds of miscellaneous things, including stitch counts for my standard sock recipes (heel and toe counts, since I can never quite remember), tutorials, measurements, gauge, and shopping lists. I haven’t kept a diary in a very long time, but these accumulated lists and notes and bookmarks paint a very personal picture and, in some cases, remind me of something I thought was interesting months (or even years) ago. This story made me go back through my notes, and I was pretty entertained by what I found.
  • Women are just better at this stuff’ — This Guardian piece about emotional labour and feminism is fascinating and thought provoking. It’s not a new idea, and certainly something I’ve talked about with my friends, but reading it while in the midst of holiday knitting gave it a new significance. The time I spend planning gifts is not insignificant, and it’s something I’m happy to do for the people I love, but this article made me think of all of that in a different light. Not negatively, just differently.
  • L and I have been watching a ton of Poirot now that it’s on Netflix (in Canada, anyway), so this story about a man who read all of Agatha Christie’s 78 mysteries was quite a treat. I love a good mystery and can’t believe I haven’t actually read any of hers (I’ve certainly watched them). Time to do something about, and his handy Top 10 is probably where I’ll start.
  • Pesto Ramen! I haven’t tried this yet (though the Vegan Pho recipe I linked to last time has become a regular meal in our house), but I plan to. I will report back, but if you’ve made it, let me know what you thought!
  • Last but not least, McSweeney’s is usually pretty good for a laugh, and this satirical take on a knitting group is very, very funny (maybe even more so because it resembles no group of knitters I’ve ever met). Stitch and bitch, indeed.
  • Edited to add: One more, and a timely one at that. As we’re all reeling from last week’s attacks in Paris and Beirut, I’ve seen a lot of confusion about who/what ISIS/ISIL/IS is and where it came from. I work at a newspaper, so when something awful happens, it becomes my wall-to-wall world (working for the business section is no insulation). One of the best things I’ve read about ISIS is this story from the Aug. 13 issue of New York Review of Books — The Mystery of ISIS. Sometimes the answer to a crisis is to try to get away from it, because it is so, so overwhelming; other times, the answer is to dig in and read, and read, and read. My reaction tends to shift from one to the other, and if yours does too, and you’re in the digging stage, this is a great place to start.

Review: Denise2Go


Some of you may remember that two years ago, while on holiday, I lost my knitting. It was quite stressful at the time and, even though it all ended well, I think about it every time I travel. In Switzerland, and in a lot of places, actually, it turns out that finding more yarn is a lot easier than finding new needles — you can get yarn at markets, or roadside tourist shops, or sometimes in the grocery store (all places I have purchased yarn), but needles are a lot harder to find.

Denise2Go Knitting Set (small size)

Denise2Go Knitting Set (small size)

Even the time I lost my knitting, I had extra yarn (just in case), but I didn’t bring extra needles, so it was basically useless. The lesson here, clearly, is to pack extra needles, but that can be tricky: what size do you bring? How do you pack them so they don’t put holes in the other items in your suitcase? And how many options should you cover yourself for? Obviously a set of interchangeable needles would make the most sense, but they tend to be kind of big and heavy, and I like to travel with as small a bag as I can get away with (it makes getting around when you don’t rent a car so much easier).

So, when Tiffany from got in touch to ask if I would be interested in reviewing the Denise2Go needle sets, I thought it would be a pretty good idea. I have a lot of needles — enough that I don’t need a full set of interchangeables (though I do wish I’d invested in one when I was starting out) — but these sets are smaller and definitely optimized for travel.



I chose the small size, which has six pairs of needles ranging from 3.75mm to 6mm (plus a crochet hook!) and three cords, 14 inches, 16 inches, and 19 inches, plus an extender that links up two cords if you need something longer. The whole thing is incredibly light and comes in a little cotton case, all very neat and tidy.

Quite a lot fits inside that little pouch.

Quite a lot fits inside that little pouch.

Generally, I knit exclusively with metal needles, so I was skeptical about the plastic at first. Luckily, I had a project I wanted to swatch for, so I tried out both the 4mm and 4.5mm tips with some Ultra Alpaca. Mostly ribbing, a few simple cables, and you know what, they were just fine. The plastic is very light, so if you grip your needles tightly there is a little bend in them, but I was pretty impressed with how well they worked, especially since I didn’t use a cable needle. This sounds kind of ridiculous, I know. Needles are needles are needles — sure — but everyone has a preference, and my previous experience with plastic needles was a very bad craft pair for kids. They had a seam bump up both sides, weren’t smooth and were very blunt. These are nothing like that: The tips are smooth and the tips are slightly rounded, but with enough point to get into tight cabled stitches without any issues. And, the cord was very flexible and none of my stitches caught when sliding up onto the tips, which is more than I can say for some brands of circular needles, interchangeable or not.

It was also really easy to switch needle sizes part way through my swatch, since I could just move my work onto the cord and swap the tips. I suppose this is true of all interchangeable sets, but if rowing out (that is, your gauge when you knit is different when you purl, causing uneven fabric when knitting stockinette flat) is a problem for you, you could easily use one needle size for knits and the other for purls and never have to switch needles.

Purple needles and a green cord made this grey swatch a little more fun to look at.

Purple needles and a green cord made this grey swatch a little more fun to look at.

I know it’s early for stocking-stuffer recommendations, but if you have a new knitter in your life, this would be a pretty great gift. This little set (there’s a bigger one too, covering 6.5mm – 10mm needles, and a crochet set) would be a great way to give them the majority of the tools they’ll need as they get started. While I don’t think these will become my everyday go-to needles, they were great for swatching and I definitely intend to tuck them into my standard carry-on bag. Plastic needles are explicitly permitted by just about every airline (I’ve never had a problem with metal, but better to have a backup) and, should disaster ever strike again, I will feel much better knowing I have this little set close at hand.

**Just so you know, I was provided this needle set for free in return for a review. I received no other compensation, and no one saw/approved this post before I published it, and all opinions, etc. here are without bias. I would never recommend something I didn’t actually like.**

Like I planned it



It wouldn’t quite be true to say that I planned to finish Epistrophy just as the weather turned cold, but sometimes the knitting knows what’s up even when you don’t. I started this sweater in March, knit the body up the arms and then put it aside in favour of various warm-weather projects.

After we moved to Ottawa, it came to my attention that this city is farther enough north to mean a noticeable change in the temperature as they seasons changed. (I knew this in an academic way before, but it’s something I *know* now.) I picked up Epistrophy again a couple of months ago and banged out the first sleeve pretty fast thanks to a weekend trip that involved a few hours in the car in each way. The second sleeve took a bit longer, and the yoke took longer still. My goal (articulated only to myself, as part of Slow Fashion October) was to have it finished by Thanksgiving (which was the Oct. 10-12 weekend), and I just squeaked in (though of course it took another two weeks to get photos).


Epistrophy was a bunch of firsts for me: my first steek (I used Kate’s crochet steek tutorial and it wasn’t scary at all, though next time I’ll buy a smaller crochet hook — the scariest part, really, was trimming the steek, which meant removing all my carful reinforcing), my first time sewing ribbon facings into the button bands (it took forever and I’m not sure I did it quite right as they fronts sit a bit high. I should pull it out and redo it, but I’m worried about stressing the steek and also hate the though of all the work. I might try re-blocking it), and my first time knitting a Kate Davies pattern. This last one is what really kills me — I’ve been a fan of Kate’s designs since my earliest knitting days, and I own both her books and some of her single patterns. I don’t know why I hadn’t knit them before, but her instructions are excellent, and the results really do speak for themselves.


I really, really love this sweater. Thanks to the yarn — Rowan Felted Tweed — it’s the perfect blend of lightweight and warm, and has enough ease to fit easily over long sleeves and button smoothly, but doesn’t sag or hang anywhere. I am, maybe weirdly, particularly happy with the sleeves. I find it hard to gauge how sleeves will fit when I’m knitting them bottom-up, and these ones are just the right length. They also fit exactly the way I wanted them to: enough ease to comfortably fit over a long-sleeves t-shirt (I haven’t yet tried it with the looser sleeves of a button-down shirt), but still snug enough to be flattering and easy to push up (I always push my sleeves up).

The only thing I’m not 100% happy with is the way the front neck sits up so close to my throat, and I’m pretty sure that’s my own fault for stretching out the button bands as I sewed on the ribbon. I’ll have to pull that out to fix it if it continues to bother me (maybe I’m just being sensitive), but really, that’s a minor (and very fixable) issue, and not enough to change how I feel about this cardigan: I love it!


Sweaters are one part of my wardrobe where I don’t have to worry (yet, anyway) about having too much. Winter is long and cold, and when you add spring and fall into the mix, an assortment of sweaters in various weights and styles is just sensible! I am in the depths of holiday gift-knitting at the moment, but I don’t think it will be long until I have another sweater on my needles, and while my next one may not be one of Kate’s designs, it certainly won’t be long until I return to my library of her patterns — Ursula is looking mighty tempting right now, and I suspect Asta Sollilja  would find itself in heavy rotation once the weather turns really cold.


Pattern: Epistrophy by Kate Davies
Yarn: Rowan Felted Tweed DK in Treacle (main) and Scree (contrast)
Notes: The only changes I made to this pattern was to change the rate of the waist shaping in order to add length (I’m tall, and added 2.5 inches to the body length). I also added a bit of length to the sleeves, which reach just to my wrist bones (my preferred length). The chart was total pleasure to knit, and never have I had such an easy time matching both my button bands in length, and then lining up my buttonholes and buttons — the beaded rib pattern makes it so simple, and lies beautifully flat (and wrinkling in the above photos is due to lazy blocking). My buttons are these ones from Fringe Supply Co. Ravelled here.

I couldn't resist stacking up all my hand-knit sweaters after finishing Epistrophy. There's pretty good variety in that pile, though more light-weight and/or pullovers wouldn't go amiss.

I couldn’t resist stacking up all my hand-knit sweaters after finishing Epistrophy. There’s pretty good variety in that pile, though more light-weight and/or pullovers wouldn’t go amiss.

Loved + Worn


These two ideas, the Slow Fashion October prompts for this and last week, fit so perfectly together that I’m just going to pretend I planned it this way. I am very much a creature of habit. I like new things and change, but I also like what I like, whether that’s a certain item on a brunch menu, a cocktail or an item (or style) of clothing.

As a result, when I like something a lot, I will purchase — or, increasingly, make, it — in multiples. For me, this is beauty of being able to make my own clothes: I can find what I like, and then make it over and over again, with simple changes, like different colours or patterns. The garments I love most see weekly wear and, I’m almost embarrassed to say, I sometimes regret wearing them because that takes them out of rotation for the rest of the week (working in an office, even a casual one, means I try not to repeat too much Monday-Friday).


But, more than any other garment (or category of garments) in my hand-made wardrobe, the ones that are, for me, totally irreplaceable — the things that will keep me knitting for the rest of my life, because truly, there is no store-bought equivalent — is socks. I am almost self-conscious about bringing this up, since I have written quite a lot about socks, but the more I think about it (and I wrote a whole other draft of this post before I realized it), the more I think hand-knit socks are my ultimate symbol of slow fashion.

Socks are disposable items of clothing. Yes, you can spend quite a bit of money on fancy ones, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a person who didn’t wear their socks into the ground and then toss them without a second glance. But, at the same time, a great pair of socks is so, so great. I actually hated socks before I started knitting my own. I didn’t like that they required readjusting and that no matter what brand I bought, my feet were always cold, and I really didn’t like that when I finally did find a pair of socks I liked, they’d wear out within a year. Useless.

Socks were the second thing I learned to knit and in that first year I knit two pairs of worsted weight socks  (I still have them both). I still remember the shock of switching to fingering-weight yarn and teeny tiny needles. It took me so long to knit that first lighter-weight pair, and then the next, and then the next. By the time I had a few pairs, almost without realizing it I stopped even looking at my drawer of store-bought socks. I was so proud of what I was making, and, almost more than that, I was proud of how useful they were!

For the last three or so years, I’ve worn hand-knit socks every day for about eight and a half months of the year. Although I now have more than a dozen pairs of hand-knit socks in regular rotation (that rotation doesn’t include lace socks or worsted-weight socks, which are worn as called upon by weather, etc.) three years ago, I only had about eight pairs of hand-knit socks, so there was a lot of washing (and, sometimes, multiple wears between washings) going on, and all those pairs saw a lot of wear. The thing about this kind of heavy rotation is that it means things wear out. This is especially true when you’re just getting started and your rotation is small.

I used the knitted-on patch technique for this pair and it is holding up admirably.

Faded and worn. I used the knitted-on patch technique for this pair and it is holding up admirably.

Just as socks were the first garment that really showed me in a practical way the value of handmade (emotionally and philosophically, I understood it already), they were also my first foray into making a real effort to make my clothes last. I’m not wasteful, but I will admit a certain temptation to let a worn-out something go as a way to justify getting something new. This t-shirt is stained? Oh darn, guess I’ll just buy that new one I’ve been eyeing. I don’t (usually) shop for the sake of shopping, but the allure of something new when what you have is old is real.

I do mend my socks, and I take care with how I wash them to ensure they last. I have noticed, though, that my older pairs — faded, mended, maybe starting to felt and/or lose their shape a little — have been pushed to the edges of my rotation. I wear them around the house, or sometimes to bed, but they are dropping out of regular use, and I’m not sure what to do with them. Part of this dilemma, I will admit, is entirely selfish: I really enjoy knitting socks, but how many pairs does one person need? If I let some pairs drift out of use, that gives me an excuse to replace them, but is that just cheating? (Yes, I knit them for others too, but still).

I can’t be the only person who produces hand-made items faster than they wear out, but this is a side of the hand-made wardrobe we rarely talk about. I love my hand made items ; I wear them daily; and even though I’m not producing at a frantic rate, I still outpace myself (and not just with socks — how many sweaters do I really need? How many pairs of mitts? Etc.). The next months of making are dedicated to holiday gifts, so I have some time to think about all of this, but still — do you notice this same dilemma in your own making? How to do you deal with it?

Slow Fashion October


Oh man, I had such big plans for this month. When Karen announced Slow Fashion October in mid-September I was so excited: What a great opportunity to write about all the things that have been jumbling around in my head since the spring; what a great excuse to really focus on what I am making and what I want to make; what a great way to push me into more regular blogging! But, alas, so far October hasn’t been any less busy than any other month, and I’m now three weeks behind and I’ve given up on the dream of catching up to Karen’s prompts.

Instead, here’s a rapid-fire version (I live in hope that next week I’ll have time to focus on this properly).

My first finished knit! It's a scarf/cowl, knit in 100% acrylic, and all the purls at twisted. I don't wear it anymore, but we do use it as a very effective tea cozy!

My first finished knit! It’s a scarf/cowl, knit in 100% acrylic, and all the purls at twisted. I don’t wear it anymore, but we do use it as a very effective tea cozy!

Week 1: You — I was very, very into crafts as a kid — beading, friendship bracelets, rug hooking (for a while), art, etc. — and did learn to knit then. But, it was slow, the needles were unwieldy and I put it aside without much thought. I came back to knitting when I was doing my masters. My sister had recently started knitting and I was was really inspired by what she was making, so when a couple of friends mentioned they’d be interested in learning, I was thrilled. From that initial scarf/cowl (knit flat and seamed) I immediately cast on for another cowl, and then took a sock class. I truly haven’t looked back since.

My progress with sewing has been slower, but overall I think my output has been better. I sewed off and on as a kid, using my mum’s ancient (but gorgeous) Singer. I made a lot of bags entirely from my own patterns (read: my coming up with an idea and cutting fabric without so much as sketching it first). I got a sewing machine for Christmas a couple of years ago, and that has really opened me up to making more of my own clothes. I still find sewing more of a hassle than knitting (it’s the set up mostly — I don’t have anywhere I can leave my machine out), but I’m enjoying it and can see myself improving, which is very encouraging.

Week 2: Small — This describes my overall handmade wardrobe, I’d say! That’s not a complaint, though. Having a small rotation of handmade garments to wear means that I really do wear them all (or, almost all) on a regular basis. My Scout Tees (most of which haven’t been blogged aside from Me Made May) get worn weekly, when it’s sweater season, it’s my handknit ones that I reach for, and the only time I wear store-bought socks is for sports (and only summer sports at that — for skiing, hiking, etc. I wear handknits).

Part of the reason for this smallness is because I’m slow. My work-life balance has been tipped in a decidedly “work” direction for a while now, and I don’t have the free time I used to. That means each thing I choose to spend time on takes more time, but also (in theory) ends up being a better piece. When you spend months knitting a sweater, you have way more time to think about fit, try it on, see how it’s working out, etc. Likewise, I spend a lot more time thinking about what I’m going to make, so when I’m free to start something new, I’ve really thought about all the ways I’ll wear or use that garment, which results in it getting lots of use once it’s done.

Epistrophy! I cast this on in March, and even though I haven't been knitting on it continuously for the last six months, that is rather a long time to have something on the needles. I'm so happy with it and the way it's turning out, and I can already tell it will be in regular rotation all winter.

Epistrophy! I cast this on in March, and even though I haven’t been knitting on it continuously for the last six months, that is rather a long time to have something on the needles. I’m so happy with it and the way it’s turning out, and I can already tell it will be in regular rotation all winter.

One of the other benefits to this slowness is that it means I make less in a year (this is not something I usually see as a positive, to be honest). I was thinking about this in relation to Karen’s prompts, and less output means I have more money to put toward each item, which allows me to pick and choose yarns and fabrics that I really like.

For example, knowing it would probably take three months to knit Sibella (no, I have not yet cast on. Soon though!), and that I would wear it for years, meant I could justify (to myself — I don’t think yarn purchases need to be justified in general) spending a little more to buy a sweater’s worth of Jill Draper Makes Stuff Esopus, a yarn I have loved from afar for a long time. I really love what Jill is doing with her yarns (local sourcing, environmentally friendly milling, hand dyeing), and I understand why they cost more because of that. Being slow let’s me support that, which is pretty great.

I thought I would be able to get to Week 3 here too, but honestly, if I don’t post this now, I might not (I already have a much longer version of Week 1 saved as a draft). Weeks 3 and 4 coming up!

It’s all coming together



I have been working on that pile of pieces since March (!) and I am so, so excited to be bringing them all together. This is Epistrophy, which I did indeed cast on for about six months ago. In all fairness, I really haven’t been working on this for six months. I knit the body in a blitz back in the spring, and then put it aside in favour of various other projects (some socks, Balta, etc.). I cast on for the first sleeve two weeks ago, and now I’m finished both! The minute I’m done writing this I’m going to join everything together and get through the first few long, pre-yoke rows.

I am, right now, 15 rounds from the colour work, and I seriously can’t wait. I’ve read through the next portion of the pattern a few times (a combination of due diligence and excitement), so I’m reasonably confident that there are no surprises coming to trip me up as I plough ahead. I realize that for a lot of people, devoting several hours on a bright and sunny (but chilly) Sunday to knitting stockinette in purple-brown yarn wouldn’t be thrilling, but truly, I can’t imagine a better way to spend my early afternoon.

Fall is truly on our doorstep now, and if I buckle down, I can welcome it wearing a brand new sweater.

Here & There, Autumn edition

A basic of WIPs. That's the first of L's Christmas socks on the side there (nearly finished!) and the bag at the top of the basked holds the first finished sleeve of my Epistrophy cardigan. I am back at work on that sucker because if it feels like fall already, I am for sure going to want that finished by mid-October.

A basic of WIPs. That’s the first of L’s Christmas socks on the side there (nearly finished!) and the bag at the top of the basket holds the first finished sleeve of my Epistrophy cardigan. I am back at work on that sucker because if it feels like fall already, I am for sure going to want that finished by mid-October. (Also, can you believe that orchid is still blooming!? What a trooper.)

I don’t know how long it will last, but right now there’s just a touch of fall in the air. This week is supposed to get warmer again, but I wore hand-knit socks both days this weekend after months of not needing socks at all, and today I wore both my Grace cardigan (first time since the spring) and my Shaelyn on the walk to work. Really, if Me-Made-May was a September thing, I would have been killing it, because I was wearing my double-gauze Scout Tee (so, basically this outfit) too.

Anyway, suffice to say that fall feels very like it has arrived, and though I always mourn the end of summer, there are worse ways for it to end than with the crisp air and great light of fall. In the spirit of this wonderful season that is far too short, I am in a mad dash to knit all the things and make all soups and basically set myself up for an excellent season. To that end, here are some of the things I’m planning (and reading) at the moment.

  • I have a lot of knitting planned (of course) but I am especially excited by my recent plan to knit myself a Dala horse hat and mitts set, using the excellent Karusellen hat pattern from the new Pom Pom (my issue just arrived!) and the free Dala Selbu Hybrid mittens pattern.
  • Button-down shirts always feel very fall to me — something about back to school I guess — and I have both the Aster and the Archer patterns to try. This is a big step forward in my sewing, but I successfully executed a (never blogged, for various reasons) Southport Dress, so I’m feeling okay about the whole endeavour. Really, it will be finding the time that’s the real challenge — sewing requires so much more set up than knitting.
  • And speaking of sewing, I also snagged Grainline’s new Lark Tee pattern because fall means layering, and this is tee designed with that express purpose in mind! (Also, there are a ton of variations included, so if I can nail the fit, I can start churning out t-shirts, which are a definite wardrobe staple for me.)
  • Clearly, all this making will make me hungry, and soup and grilled cheese is just about my favourite meal pairing (ask just about anyone who knows me). After years of searching (not exaggerating) this is probably the best and more reliable tomato bisque recipe I’ve ever found, and this is the absolute right time to be making it because fresh tomatoes take this to another level.
  • Another soup I am dying to try (but, full disclosure, have not yet made) is this vegan pho. I love pho, but it’s very hard to find one that doesn’t have fish broth. Clearly making it at home is the answer, and I like that this recipe is for a small quantity. Leftovers are great, but sometimes you just want to make dinner (and it’s so much easier to scale up than down).
  • Did you see Knitty’s call for patrons? When I first started knitting (before I knew about Ravelry) Knitty was my first major resource. I found it during a bout of blind googling and it felt like I’d landed on buried treasure. Now that I’ve come to better understand its place in knitting’s web-culture and its fantastic attitude toward designers, I like it even more. I’m not sure I’ve ever knit a pattern, but I’ve definitely read through instructions to learn about techniques and the trove of tutorials is really excellent. (Edited to add: This is total nonsense on my part. Monkey is a Knitty pattern! The more I look at their archive, the more I realize how many “classic” patterns were published by Knitty.) Basically, I did the math, and realized that I could support this excellent resource and publication for less than a skein of sock yarn a year, and signed up to be a patron. This is not meant to be a directive, but if you didn’t hear about this initiative and are interested, it’s definitely worth checking out the ways you can support Knitty.
  • And, last but not least, L and I are in the art-hanging stage of our move-in (this is when it’s serious, because your furniture better be pretty much arranged) and we’ve been re-evaluating some of our previous frame choices. I found this tutorial today for a kind of floating-non-frame look and I think we’re going to try it in the living room.

What are you enjoying these days? Is it fall where you live?


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,085 other followers