Going Coastal

9

L and I had a great time in Nova Scotia last week. Mostly we spent our time hanging out with family and friends and eating really good food. It was a short trip, so there wasn’t too much sightseeing (unless you count various restaurant interiors and living rooms), but here’s a taste of our trip.

The famous lighthouse in Peggy's Cove. It was a bright and sunny day in Halifax, but when we got to Peggy's Cove it was quite chilly. The upside, of course, was there was almost no one else there.

The famous lighthouse in Peggy’s Cove. It was a bright and sunny day in Halifax, but when we got to Peggy’s Cove it was quite chilly. The upside, of course, was there was almost no one else there.

Besides the lighthouse, Peggy's Cove remains an active fishing village (lobster being the main catch, I think).

Besides the lighthouse, Peggy’s Cove remains an active fishing village (lobster being the main catch, I think).

This is the classic view as you drive into the Annapolis Valley. The tide is in and that long dark peninsula is Blomidon, a provincial park and legendary home to the Mi'kmaq god Glooscap.

This is the classic view as you drive into the Annapolis Valley. The tide is in and that long dark peninsula-looking thing is Blomidon, a provincial park and legendary home to the Mi’kmaq god Glooscap.

The beach at the base of Blomidon. The tide is somewhere between a third of the way and halfway out. That speck in the middle is L.

The beach at the base of Blomidon. The tide is somewhere between a third of the way and halfway out. That speck in the middle is L.

We walked along the beach for a little while and, despite the sun, it was freezing. The point up ahead is the very tip of the mountain (which looks like a peninsula from farther away).

We walked along the beach for a little while and, despite the sun, it was freezing. The point up ahead is the very tip of the mountain (which looks like a peninsula from farther away).

Crocuses! My parents have amazing gardens, but at this time of year all the glory goes to the crocuses, which offer a welcome riot of colour after the winter.

Crocuses! My parents have amazing gardens, but at this time of year all the glory goes to the crocuses, which offer a welcome riot of colour after the winter.

I mentioned before that one of the things I was hoping to do was find some yarn. Specifically, a match to this skein. I am thrilled (and, honestly, pretty surprised) to report success! The woman who dyed this yarn lives quite close to my parents, and she invited my mum and I over to see if she could find a match. She raises sheep and has a Suri Alpaca, spins and dyes yarn. Marilyn is amazing. I didn’t take any pictures, since we were in her house, but the big basket of handspun sitting in her living room was incredible. Anyway, it turns out that the yarn I was trying to match is a wool/mohair blend dyed by her but spun at the MacAusland woolen mill in PEI. The mill doesn’t use any harsh chemicals, so there is still some VM in the finished wool, but that doesn’t bother me. Plus, Marilyn explained that the chemicals actually weaken the yarn, so if that bit of VM means my garments will last longer, I’m doubly fine with it.

I think the grey is soft enough that I'm not worried about the bumblebee effect.

I think the grey is soft enough that I’m not worried about the bumblebee effect.

She had one skein left of the colourway I wanted, so I snapped it right up. She also had a few other colours – a really beautiful green, a variegated green/gold/grey, and some undyed skeins. I was really taken with the green, but I’m trying really hard not to buy single skeins unless there’s good yardage (or a plan), so I resisted and went with the two undyed skeins instead, which gives me just under 400 yds of each colour. I really like the grey/yellow combination, and am thinking this will either become the small version of Westloop (the leading contender) or the Great Divide shawl.

The full haul, l-r, top to bottom:  Two skeins undyed yarn from Marilyn; Swan's Island  Organic Fingering weight in Vintage Lilac, two skeinds Swan's Island Washable DK in Midnight (for a new hat for L), yellow/gold skein from Marilyn; Four skeins Fleece Artist Wool Tweed

The full haul, l-r, top to bottom:
Two skeins undyed yarn from Marilyn; Swan’s Island Organic Fingering weight in Vintage Lilac, two skeins Swan’s Island Washable DK in Midnight (for a new hat for L), yellow/gold skein from Marilyn; Four skeins Fleece Artist Wool Tweed

Of course, that isn’t all I picked up. I was in a bit of a mood I guess, and before I knew it there were 10 skeins of yarn to fit into my bag on the way home. The bottom row (above) is all from Gaspereau Valley Fibres, which had a ton of new stock (at least compared to my last visit) and is definitely my LYS-away-from-home (or at home, depending on how you define things). The Swan’s Island is from Loop, a yarn shop in Halifax that I’d never been to but had a chance to check out this time. The Lilac is for me and the Midnight is for a new hat for L. I have at least tentative plans for everything I bought, and have already cast on some of the Fleece Artist — spring knitting, here I come!

Splish splash

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I was going to write about our Nova Scotia trip today, but I finished my Splash striped socks the other day so Nova Scotia will have to wait. I feel like it has been ages since I finished a pair of socks, which is weird since I always have a pair on the needles.

Stripes!

Stripes!

I really meant to finish my Pheasant socks first, but I couldn’t resist these stripes. Ganymede decided to help out with the winding of the second skein of yarn (it comes in balls, but I wound them into cakes because I find them easier to knit from) and the resulting tangle meant I spend half my knitting time sorting out lengths of yarn to knit with. I finally fixed the problem on our way home of Nova Scotia and the rest of the knitting flew.

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Besides the stripes, there’s nothing very exciting about the socks. They’re my standard 68-stitch sock (knit at 9 stitches = 1 inch), though with contrast heels. Choosing the contrast colour was pretty fun, actually. I wanted a real contrast though, so I resisted the blues and greens in my leftover bag. I was originally planning to use yellow, but against the greens it looked more sallow than sunny. The purple is unexpected, but I think it works.

When I ordered all that Felici, I bought enough for four pairs of socks (with shipping, it makes sense to buy in bulk, ahem.) I am definitely not over the stripes yet, so it probably won’t be long before I cast on another pair.

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On the road

5

In a couple of hours, L and I are heading for the airport. We’re going to Nova Scotia for a few days to visit my family and hang out. I haven’t been home since July and the last time L and I were there together was nearly two years ago, so it’s definitely time. The forecast isn’t very promising (rain, maybe rain, and rain) but that’s Nova Scotia in April, so we’ll pack rain coats and just suck it up. It’s my sister’s birthday tomorrow, and birthday lunch and dinner with friends are the only concrete plans we have. I’m hoping to get in trips to my favourite yarn shop (and a nearby vineyard) and Lamb’s Run Farm, where my mum got me this lovely skein of yarn. It’s a long shot, but I’m going to try and get some more so I can make the Moon & Stars shawl (my back-up pattern is Norby, so it’s not a disaster if more yardage doesn’t exist).

I really love this yarn.

I really love this yarn. It’s luminous and wooly and I can’t wait to knit it up.

In terms of actual knitting, I thought about bringing Grace, but sweaters take up so much space in a carry-on. I might still bring it for knitting around the house, but my default travel knitting is socks, and since I have two pairs on the needles, I’m bringing them both.

Plain socks, knit up in Hedgehog Fibres BFL/nylon sock in the Pheasant colourway.

Plain socks, knit up in Hedgehog Fibres BFL/nylon sock in the Pheasant colourway.

I’ve mentioned my Pheasant socks before, but the other pair has yet to make an appearance here. It seems like everyone is having a bit of a self-striping moment right now (see TanisCassy and and Wei Siew as examples) and I couldn’t resist either. I loved watching the stripes unfold on my Christmas socks, so I’ve had my eye out for fun self-striping yarns ever since.

Felici in Splash.

Felici in Splash.

I found out recently that Knit Picks is discontinuing Felici, which I had never knit with but heard nothing but good things about. I decided to go see what colourways they had left, and then found myself buying eight skeins (enough for four pairs of socks). It was a gamble, but so far, totally worth it. This is the Splash colourway (with a contrast heel to preserve the stripe sequence) and I love it. The colours are fun, the yarn is soft and firm, and they’re perfect spring socks. In taking these pictures I realized that I have to pairs of socks a little more than half finished. It feels like ages since I finished a pair, but clearly that’s my own fault, since I should have just finished the Pheasant socks before starting with the stripes. I just couldn’t resist, though. With any luck, by this time next week I’ll have two finished pairs of socks to show off – and, in all likelihood, another pair on the needles.

Hello, Shaelyn

16

A while ago, I did a post about all of my works-in-progress. In truth, nothing much has changed with most of them, but the act of getting them all out so I could take fresh photos sparked a renewed desire to see them finished. I have since picked Grace back up and, to my deep satisfaction, finished the longest-standing WIP in the pile, Shaelyn.

I'm not sure what L was doing with the camera here, but I was definitely standing upright.

I’m not sure what L was doing with the camera here, but I was definitely standing upright.

I cast this on over a year ago, and it is a prime example of a project being the victim of its circumstances. Mainly, that the yarn I used (Handmaiden Casbah in Lupins) was awful to wind. Both skeins had switchbacks that required cutting the yarn and untangling it on the swift. I think I ended up winding the skeins by hand (each one in two halves) before re-winding them into cakes. I probably shouldn’t have cast on right away, because I was ticked off, which made it really easy for me to put down this shawl at the first moment it became less than intuitive (by which I mean, my stitch count was off and I couldn’t be bothered to figure out why). We’ve all had these projects, right?

Anyway, after I finished Flukra and found myself wearing it pretty much every day, I decided I wanted another big shawl immediately. I could have cast on for something new, but Shaelyn was three repeats in, so figuring out where I went wrong seemed faster — and since Leila Raabe offers a little guide to figuring out where you are in the pattern, it only required me to rip out a couple of rows to get back on track.

shaelyn4

I knit on Shaelyn steadily before putting it down to start New Girl, and then last weekend I decided to finish it. I was nearly finished the seventh repeat when I put it down (I wanted a big shawl, after all) and the remainder of the repeat, plus the edging and the bind-off took most of Saturday (the rows were all 300+ stitches), but it blocked out beautifully and dried over night, in time to take pictures of it with New Girl. I really wish I’d measured it before blocking (we had friends over, so after finishing the cast-off over drinks, I just put it in to soak), but I’d guess it blocked out 12 inches are so larger in both wingspan and depth.

It’s huge, but the loose and drapey fabric make it light and easy to wear, and it needs no adjusting to stay put around my neck. I love it, and I am so glad that I both waited so long to finish it (I was annoyed with it originally, so might not have pushed ahead with the extra repeats) and that I picked it back when I did — it’s perfect for spring!

Finished measurements: 66 inches across x 36 inches deep. Enormous.

Finished measurements: 66 inches across x 36 inches deep. Enormous.

Details
Pattern: Shaelyn by Leila Raabe
Yarn: Handmaiden Casbah Sock in Lupins
Needles: 5mm
Notes: I had two skeins of the yarn, so I added two extra repeats of the chart before the edging. With one skein I would have been fine to have knit this as written (the extra two repeats + edging took about half the second skein). I used Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind-Off, which gives a nice edge especially for blocking out the slightly-scalloped edge. Ravelled here.

New Girl!

18

I am so, so happy with this skirt.

If it works with a t-shirt and a cardigan, it is basically a lock in my wardrobe.

If it works with a t-shirt and a cardigan, it is basically a lock in my wardrobe.

I’ll admit that I was a little worried. Not that it wouldn’t fit, but that I would finish it and put it on and just feel meh. There is nothing worse that working really hard on something with an image of how it will look when you’re done, only to discover that it looks great on the hangar, but maybe isn’t quite your style. I have been admiring this skirt since it was first published, but I was never quite sure if I could pull it off.

I’m getting better at listening to that little voice in my head that points out things about a pattern that might be a problem, or cause regrets, and this time I listened. I didn’t want quite such a full skirt, so I did some math and decided I could get away with half as many increases as the pattern calls for. I also added 1.5 inches to the length (after the pockets) and left off the pocket cuffs. I also thought a lot about colour. Cassy and I talked a lot about colour before we cast-on, and although I was draw to both a dark, forest green and cranberry as possible main colours, I went with blue because that’s a colour I’m used to wearing. I’m not always good at integrating new styles into my wardrobe — especially if they’re different from what I usually wear — so I wanted to make this something I wouldn’t overthink.

I added stripes to the insides of the pockets, just for fun.

I added stripes to the insides of the pockets, just for fun. (L suggests I not make a habit of posing like this in public.)

At risk of repeating myself, I am thrilled with how this turned out. I put it on yesterday for our little photo shoot (we got double-digit temperature yesterday! It was incredible) and it was the first time I’d really worn it apart from fitting the waistband. L thought it looked great, so when we went out last night to trivia night with friends, I didn’t change, and I got compliments right off the bat. One of our friends actually said she thought it was vintage (high praise indeed).

Way back when I was casting on, Audry asked about my yarn choice. I went with Zitron Unisono, which I’ve previously used for socks, and so far I’m really happy with it. Unisono is 100% merino, but infused with aloe and jojoba, which sounds weird but feels amazing. It has five plies, so it’s very round and very springy, so it keeps its shape well but also stretches, which is necessary for this pattern because of the elastic waist. It also made doing the daisy stitch edge much easier. Based on the socks I’ve knit, this is a yarn that wears really, really well. Those are knit at a much tighter gauge, though, so I’ll have to see how this skirt holds up — I foresee it seeing a lot of action this spring.

newgirl8

Details
Pattern: New Girl by Allyson Dykhuizen
Yarn: Zitron Unisono in #1155 (blue) and #1163 (grey)
Needles: 4.5 mm
Notes: My gauge was slightly tighter than called for in the pattern (25 instead of 24 stitches per four inches) but since there’s a lot of positive ease it was fine. As I said above, I did half as many increases for the skirt (k1, kfb, all the way around) which worked out really well, as did adding the extra length (1.5 inches, below the pockets). I also left off the pocket cuffs, though I considered knitting them but leaving out the daisy stitch. If I knit this again, I think I’ll use a smaller needle for the waistband. This one is fine, but I ended up needing to use a black elastic band because I was worried a white one might show through the stitches. I think I’d also make the waist band just a little bit taller — 1.25 inches or so. Ravelled here.

I actually finished something else this weekend, so our sunny photo shoot was a double-whammy. I’m saving that for another post, but here’s a preview. (I cannot believe I was outside in a t-shirt! There was still snow across the park, but in the sun and out of the wind, it really felt warm.)

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In tandem

15

Earlier this week, I finished New Girl. I don’t have proper photos yet, so that post will have to wait, but it is finished, and I am very excited to wear it.

Sneak peek.

Sneak peek.

Part of what I liked so much about New Girl was that I was knitting it along with Cassy. It wasn’t a formal KAL, but we both liked the pattern and when I said I was planning to knit it she decided to cast on too. Without any real plans of itinerary, we knit kept pretty good pace and I’m pretty sure she’s finished (or just about finished) now too. It was great! I’d never knit a skirt before, so it was fun to talk with back and forth as we progressed — talking over colours, fit, style, etc.

Because of my work hours, I’ve never been able to really be part of a knit night. There is an amazing knitting community in Toronto, but I’m kind of on the edge of it — I blog/do web things for my LYS, but don’t really get a chance to meet the regulars, for example. I really like my job, so I’m mostly okay with the way it shapes my social time, but sometimes I get a little pang when there’s a great event or author coming to town and I know I won’t make it.

All of which is to say that that’s one of the reasons blogging is so much fun. It’s such a great way to interact with all of you — people who share an interest in making (whether knitting, sewing, or whatever). Knitting New Girl alongside Cassy was fun because it was communal. I would have knit the skirt anyway, but I really enjoyed being able to talk about it with someone besides L (who will listen, but can’t make a lot of suggestions). I also think knitting together motivated me to keep going. For a project I thought would be relatively quick, this felt like it took a while, and I might have been tempted to put it down in favour of something else if I didn’t know she was knitting it too.

Considering it was shoved in a bag for nearly a year, it doesn't look so bad.

Considering Grace was shoved in a bag for nearly a year, it doesn’t look so bad.

So, it was perfect timing when Andrea pinged me on Instagram earlier this week. She is knitting Grace, and ages ago I mentioned that if she let me know when she separated the arms, I’d pick up my Grace and knit along with her. It took me a few days (I wanted all my ends woven in and the waistband done before I moved on from New Girl) but last night I picked up Grace, worked out where I was in the pattern, and started up again. It’s a casual knitting-at-the-same-time kind of thing, with no plans or deadlines, but if my last FO is any indication, knitting with Andrea may just mean Grace gets finished sooner rather than later.

Learning curve

16

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Still no finished New Girl to show you (maybe this time next week?). I noticed at the end of last week that my hands were starting to hurt. Specifically, my left thumb (which braces my left needle) and my right forefinger (which throws the yarn, since I knit English). Cassy and I were talking about it, and she says she’s having pain in the same places. There are probably a few reasons for this, but I’m sure one of them is how heavy this knitting is. The skirt is well over 300 stitches around, and even when it’s in my lap, my hands are supporting a fair bit of that weight, which is a whole lot more than a sock, or even (for me) an average sweater. So I’ve been taking it slow. I’m getting close to finishing the skirt (two more rows and then I get to the daisy stitch pattern!) and after that I think the pockets will feel very quick.

Anyway, since I wasn’t knitting much this weekend, I turned my attention to sewing. I am definitely, definitely, a beginning sewist. Ahem. I fooled around on mum’s beautiful old Singer when I was in high school, I’ve made a few project bags and last year I made my first garment, the super basic Wiksten Tank. I really want to sew more, so I decided to start early this year in the hopes of building up a somewhat me-made summer wardrobe.

I am so, so desperate for green! This fabric is Vintage Floral, Vine, from Rowan's Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

I am so, so desperate for green! This fabric is Vintage Floral, Vine, from Rowan’s Victoria & Albert Museum collection.

I decided to make the Wiksten Tank again, since I already had the pattern cut and felt like I had learned some things making the last one. For example: Last time I cut the largest size, but after trying it on decided it was huge (despite being correct for my measurements) and took it in. This tim, I cut the next size down, thinking that would be a good compromise, since I liked the idea of having a sort of over-sized, floaty tank for the very hot summer days I’m sure are coming (I say this, but it’s -8C today before windchill and yeah, it may be cold forever).

On the right, the piece of the tank; on the left, leftovers.

On the right, the piece of the tank; on the left, leftovers. Clearly there’s a bit of a green theme with my sewing tools.

I cut the fabric on Saturday and then sewed it up on Sunday. It’s actually a pretty quick sew until you get to the binding and hemming. The pattern is written for people without sergers (just as well, since I don’t have one) and to keep the seams neat there’s a lot of folding and ironing and pinning, and it’s finicky and time consuming. I got tired and annoyed by all the finishing last time and skimped on it, which I regret now. This time, I took my time and I’m really proud of my seams and bias binding. I also inserted a long box pleat in the back, because when I tried it on, I realized the neckline was sort of puffing out at the back of my neck (there’s probably a technical term for this, but suffice to say, it did not lay flat).

Ta da! There are no pictures of me wearing it (yet) because it is too friggin' cold to pose outside and I don't have the patience to pose indoors. I'll take a picture of me wearing it later.

Ta da! There are no pictures of me wearing it (yet) because it is too friggin’ cold to pose outside and I don’t have the patience to pose indoors. I’ll take a picture of me wearing it later.

Probably, that should have been the point when I assessed the fit of the rest of the tank. Turns out, I could probably have cut two sizes smaller than the one I did. I know it’s meant to have positive ease (and perhaps in a lighter fabric it would drape differently) but it is quite huge. I’m not even sure what happened, since I looked at the direction, chose a size, cut that size, sewed the seams as written, and it’s still enormous – in sewing you can’t blame wonky gauge, and deciding on the fly to change the fitting is not nearly as easy, especially since if you don’t like it there is no ripping back.

I’m not discouraged though. There’s always a learning curve, and I’m not afraid of that. Next time I think I’ll try a lighter fabric in a smaller size and see how that goes. I also plan to try making a Washi Dress this summer, but will definitely make a muslin before cutting into anything nice.

Do you sew? Do you have any tips? Are there any good sewing blogs I should be reading? When I started knitting, the world of knit blogs opened up so much possibility for me, and I feel like finding a community of sewing bloggers would help. You can learn so much just by reading about other people’s approaches or pattern modifications or fabric choices. As I said, I’m a beginner, so any advice is most appreciated!

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