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The dalas of my dreams

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I first started scheming about set of accessories featuring dala horses nearly five months ago, right as I was on the cusp of my holiday knitting. It took me a while, but that set is now finished, and it turned out better than I could have imagined.

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Let’s tackle the hat first. This is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the recent Autumn issue of Pom Pom Quarterly. I wanted a deeper folding brim, so I subbed in the one from Skiff, which, as far as I’m concerned, is the Platonic ideal of a fold-up brim. I took basically no notes about my mods, apparently, but I think I cast on 120 stitches and then followed the instructions for Skiff with one further modification: After I was about an inch into the brim, I realized that my chosen yarn* was, to put it mildly, rather sheepy. That’s pretty perfect for a pattern from Pom Pom’s “wool issue,” but not the most comfortable next-to-skin yarn. So, after the turning row (makes sense in the Skiff pattern), I switched and knit the next 2.75 inches with some leftover Shelter in Snowbound. It’s pretty invisible when I’m wearing the hat, but much more comfortable against my forehead.

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Aside from the brim, I knit this exactly as written and it was a total pleasure. It’s alway fun to watch charts appear in your knitting, and though I did have to tink back a few times when I wasn’t quite paying attention, it was quite straightforward. I made the larger size, for a bit of slouch (and to accommodate all my hair) and I’m very pleased with the size and the big pompom. I can’t remember ever having a pompom hat before (maybe when I was a kid?) but I’m quite taken with this one and think there are probably more in my future.

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Now, the mittens. The pattern is really just a few notes and a chart that you work right-to-left for one mitten and then left-to-right for the other. It’s quite barebones, but if you’ve ever knit stranded mittens before it’s quite easy to follow along.

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I did (of course) make a few modifications. I added length to the heel of the hand (before starting the thumb increases) and then added a few more rows at the top of the thumb gusset, before placing those stitches onto waste yarn. Then, I recharted the top of the hand to add extra length. I added length to the thumb as well, and changed the chart for the inside of the thumb — rather than adding words, I just continued the palm charts up the thumb. I also changed the cuff — just straight 2×2 ribbing, knit in a contrast since the grey came from my stash and I didn’t want to risk running out (turns out I would have been fine, but best to be sure).

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As an overall set, I think they work very well. They all match, but do so without being matchy, if you know what I mean. The dala charts themselves are exactly the same, just knit at very different gauges, which was a nice coincidence, and meant that by the time I’d knit all the horses on the hat I was pretty much a pro when it came time to knit the mittens! They’re quite cozy, and though I know they’ll fuzz up quite a lot (Fresco does that — it looks a little messy, but it does make for very warm mitts), I don’t mind so much. They’re nice and crisp right now, and I’m enjoying them very much.

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*A note about my yarn choice. This yarn is from a sheep farm and dyer local to my parents in Nova Scotia. If I am remembering all of this correctly (dam my scanty notes!), the yarn was milled at the MacAusland Woollen Mills in Prince Edward Island. They sell yarn wholesale, but farmers can also send in their own wool to be milled. All the wool gets milled together, and the farmer receives the same weight back as they sent in, though all the fleeces are mixed. The neutral is an undyed grey/brown and the gold/brown is hand-dyed, both are a wool-mohair blend.

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Ticking all the boxes

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Last week, I finished my Dala Mitts (photos coming soon), which meant it was time to dive into some baby knitting. One of my best friends from high school is due this month, and Amber‘s first birthday is in a couple of weeks (I can’t believe she’s a year old) and that means lots of little knitting. When I started knitting again six years ago, I couldn’t understand the appeal of baby things. Tiny patterns seemed to proliferate, and during my brief time working and teaching in a knitting shop, patterns and yarns for babies seemed to be half the business. Maybe it just takes having some babies in your life to get it, but I am increasingly enchanted by tiny garments — both how adorable they are and how much fun they can be to knit.

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Anyway, when it came to choosing a pattern to knit for the new baby (a girl), I knew what yarn I wanted to use (Malabrigo Sock in Dewberry, from deep in my stash) but I couldnt’ quite settle on a pattern. My go-to baby cardigan is Tanis Lavallee’s Sunnyside, which I’ve knit three times and unabashedly adore. I even though I’d knit the lace version this time, which was kind of exciting. This was the plan, so when it came time to actually cast on I was surprised that I felt kind of restless about my pattern choice. Maybe it was the prospect of all that stockinette, I’m not sure, but something sent me searching through Ravelry for an alternative.

And then, I found it: the February Baby Sweater. I’ve owned The Knitter’s Almanac for years, and though I read it cover to cover, I’ve never actually knit any of the patterns in it. Crazy, right? Clearly, though, this was too perfect to pass up: Baby girl, due in February, plus the fact that I would be knitting it in February — clearly meant to be.

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Just about to separate for the sleeves.

I cast on last weekend and, after figuring out some modifications for my smaller gauge (EZ’s version uses worsted- or DK-weight, but I’m using fingering-weight — I’ve outlined my mods here), I’ve just been happily knitting away. After the total pleasure of knitting my Dala Mitts, this little sweater is a worthy successor, and it really does tick all my boxes: I’m using yarn and pattern from my stash, the knitting is interesting but doesn’t require full attention, and in not too long I’ll have an adorable gift for a good friend. Hard to beat that combination, really.

In for a penny

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In a for a pound, or so the saying goes, and which is really just my way of saying that the dala set I started with Karusellen is really and truly happening. And, look! I even have half a pair of mittens to prove it.

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The colours are not an exact match for the hat, but the scheme is the same, and they both feature dala horses, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to consider them a set. The first mitten flew off my needles (sans thumb) over the weekend, and the second one (despite appearances here) is well into the thumb increases. If I’m very lucky, I’ll have a finished pair by this time next week, which would be very good. I had to mend my old mittens again the other day, and they are in no shape to see me through the cold days to come.

I’m working on it

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And by “it,” I mean both my selection of winter accessories (which is very thin) and this hat, which is Karusellen by Erica Knits, from the fall issue of PomPom Quarterly (I just renewed by subscription, actually — I can’t believe it’s already been a year!).

Anyway, about this hat. I opted for a deeper doubled brim, because it is friggin’ cold here (currently -14C, feels like -23C, which converts to about 7F and -9F) and I wanted a hat I could pull right down to my eyebrows when necessary. I’m knitting this is quite a sheepy, farmy, rustic yarn, which I got a couple of years ago. It’s from a farm called Lamb’s Run, near where I grew up, and the gold/brown was dyed the woman who lives there. It’s a wool/mohair blend, though I couldn’t tell you the proportions, and I suspect (hope) it will soften up with a wash. Either way, it will be very warm, and since I managed to knit the heads on these dala horses last night and start the decreases, I think I will be wearing it very soon!

I wrote ages ago about my plan for a Dala set, so once this is off the needles, these are going on. And not a moment too soon, since my mittens are just about to wear through again (I’ve already patched them once…)

Handmade holiday

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Well, I really didn’t mean to disappear for so long! The holidays seemed busier this year, somehow, between the knitting and the hosting and travelling, and of course working right up until the afternoon of Christmas Eve. We put our tree up a few weeks ago, and I had intended to do a little follow-up on my ornament resolution then, but I just never managed to find a spare moment.

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Merry Christmas!

Last year, our tree was a little spare, so I made a nice public plan to make 12 ornaments for our tree this year. I didn’t quite make it — I ended up with just eight — but since I also spent the year picking up a nice selection of handmade ornaments at craft sales, and also picked up some nice vintage ones, our tree was much fuller and more colourful this year.

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Simple stars. I actually made four (red ands silver, in addition to these two), but since they all look the same I didn’t think it was necessary to photograph them all.

The ornaments I made fell into two categories: origami stars, which were quite quick, and knitting baubles. I had planned to make lots of different kinds of ornaments, but time got away from me (partly because they were so quick to make individually that I never really set aside time to focus on them) so I stuck with what I knew.

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I’m pretty happy with the knitting baubles. They’re all the same size (a little smaller than a base ball, I’d say) and each one worked up very quickly. Each one uses the basic pattern from the Balls Up! pattern, and then for I used the colour work pattern from the Clayoquot sweater twice, as well as the lace pattern from Camomile and the Ben’s Balls pattern (included with the original). I definitely want to repeat the Camomile pattern with a different colour (the dark green blends in a little with the tree), and I’d like to do another one with this tree pattern, and how cute would it be to do one with little Santa Gnomes? So, I think there are definitely a couple more of these in my future. (Details on the four I did make are here.)

Of course, even though I didn’t actually manage to make more ornaments didn’t mean I wasn’t collecting patterns! Others I hope to make in the coming year (assuming I remember to actually do so) are: stars, tapered baubles, mini mittens, little stockings, lace stars, and, if I’m feeling really ambitions, a knit wreath (I really, really love this pattern, so I might buy the frame for it this year, if I can find one, so I have no excuse not to make one. I quite like the garland, as well, actually, and think it’s a good candidate for some beads if I can ever find ones that are big enough.)

So there you have it. Not as impressive as I’d hoped, but not too bad either. Did you make ornaments this year? What other patterns should I add to my list?

Here and There

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Funny, sheepy sign above a little restaurant in Villars, Swizerland.

Funny, sheepy sign above a little restaurant in Villars, Swizerland.

Whoa. I did not mean to disappear for so long! It turns out that two trips in three weeks does quite a number on your to-do list, and I’m only just starting to feel caught up (this is my first full weekend at home in five weeks! It feels like magic). Anyway, in lieu of mountain photos (they are coming, even if only for myself at this point) or anything finished (Balta is so close!) here are a bunch of interesting things I’ve read/watched/seen in the last month or so.

  • Google Sheep View! It’s exactly what it sounds like and I can’t get enough of it.
  • Speaking of sheep, apparently Switzerland’s rail line keeps flocks of sheep to “mow” the land near the tracks. We didn’t get to visit them (sad face), but there is a whole blog dedicated to the sheep, and written from their point of view, on the SBB’s website.
  • 3-D printed clothing. I’m really not sure about this (looks a bit plastic-y to me), but it will be interesting to see if this goes anywhere.
  • Fleeced! Etymology is fascinating, and if the medieval wool trade was indeed this corrupt, I’m not surprised that’s a word we still use (albeit rarely).
  • “The first step in the process is deciding what you need, which can be surprisingly difficult.” — from The Life of a Garment: The Planning Process, part of a great little series in Paste by Elizabeth Hyer, about creating a handmade wardrobe.
  • Karen released the latest Fringe Hatalong pattern and it’s a worsted-weight version of Gudrun Johnston’s Hermaness Hat. Although I am not a big hat wearer, I regret that every winter, so maybe I should just buckle down and knit this one, which I like quite a bit (I was already eyeing the original). Is it crazy to be thinking about hats and mitts when the weather is just starting to fully turn to summer?
  • Finally: What do I do with these garlic scapes? I see them every year and am always curious, so I finally bought some. Now what? (I am googling, but I always appreciate recommendations.)

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The year in making: Looking Back

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It’s that time of year I guess. 2014 was a funny one for me: I never felt like I had very much time to knit anything at all, but looking back I think I did okay. I’ve also included some sewn pieces in this collage, but not everything. I sewed a lot this year and most what I made are not garments I’d wear, though they all taught me something. A few of these pieces are unblogged, either because they were gifts or I just didn’t quite get around to them. Anyway, here is what 2014 looked like from over here.

2014Starting at the top and going across each row left to right: JanuaryCold Snap socks, Brig, Sunnyside Twin Set, Rye – February –  Hodgepodge Mittens, Sochi Socks – March – Flukra, Shaelyn, New Girl – AprilSplish-Splash socks, Gaspereau Mitts, Fine-Feathered Madeleine, Pheasant socks (actually finished in June, but they fit better in this row), Grace – JuneBaldersquash socks – JulyGatineau Stripes – AugustSummer Skyps, Endless Summer Tunic/Dress, Brig II – SeptemberKelly skirt, Betula, Stasis – October – Endless Summer Dress, Motoring Madness mitts, Rye II (unblogged, my mum’s Christmas gift), Norby, Dad socks (unbloged, my dad’s Christmas gift) – December –  Skiff (unblogged, my sister’s Christmas gift), Wee Envelope (despite appearance, I did finish it, I just gifted it before taking a new photo), Christmas Stockings, Return of the Moose gloves,  Blackberries, Ruby Sunnyside (unblogged because I just finished it).

If you’re keeping count, that’s 35 actively enjoyed finished garments, and there are actually a couple of others that I never got around to taking photos of (including a second Kelly skirt, which I made for my sister). That works out to: 12 pairs of socks, 4 hats, 4 baby sweaters, 4 pairs of mittens/mitts/gloves, 3 skirts (two sewn, one knit), 2 shawls, 2 sweaters, 2 sewn dresses, and two Christmas stockings! Not too shabby, and a good range of garments that managed to not be all in the same colour!

Besides the socks, my most-worn knits have definitely been Shaelyn and Grace, with New Girl coming in a close third. Shaelyn is an ideal shawl for summer (for me): long enough to wear when bicycling to and from work, a nice lightweight fabric that’s still warm, and a colour that manages to be a both snappy and a neutral. Grace is both easy to wear and very comfortable. It’s perfect for work, and brings some good colour to my otherwise kind of dark winter wardrobe (so much navy…) New Girl was a complete surprise. I’d been interested in knitting a skirt for a while, and although I loved the pattern, it was hard to know how it would turn out. As it is, I’ve worn it so much I’m honestly thinking about knitting a second one.

What was your favourite FO of the year? Does it surprise you?

I’ll get to my 2015 goals later, but in the meantime let me just say thank you to everyone who reads this blog, whether you comment regularly, just once in a while, or not at all. There have definitely been days when knowing I’d blogged about something pushed me to keep going at it, or when knowing I could ask for advice or an opinion kept me from worrying about some detail or another. So, thank you for hanging out this year! Let’s do it again in 2015.