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First post of 2017!

So, um, I’ve been a bit bad about keeping this blog up-to-date. Oops. I didn’t mean to abandon it, but this fall was crazy-busy with knitting work, and that meant something had to give. Apparently, it was this.

But, new year, new intentions, right? And, now that I’m finally over the horrible cold I caught at Christmas, I’m back at work, making making making!

So, what’s in store for 2017?

Heritage and rare breed yarns! I attended the Cowichan Fleece and Fibre Fair back in October, and came home with some Shetland handspun, some GORGEOUS Cotswold DK weight yarn and some Cotswold/bamboo fingering from Pender Island Farm, and sent away a Romney lamb fleece from Horizon Heritage Farm for custom spinning. Plus, I got my hands on some amazing Border Leicester yarn from the Doulton Flock. Getting my hands on these wonderful heritage breed yarns has lit a real fire, and so I’m planning to do some posts about knitting with these yarns. Merino is lovely – it’s hard to beat its softness, but it just isn’t that hard wearing. It’s wonderful for items intended for delicate wear, but the moment it encounters friction (like what you’d get when a sleeve rubs against a body, or in an arm pit gusset), it pills. I’m already quite in love with Blue Face Leicester yarn, so it feels natural to extend that love to other heritage breeds. Plus, it’s important to support farmers who work so hard to preserve heritage breeds and farming diversity. I’d love to do what I can to help.

So, I’ve been swatching away, and plan to post about the properties of these great yarns so that knitters can feel informed about other less common sheep breeds. I’m very excited about this – I hope you are, too!

Dyeing! At the moment, I’ve got a set of Ciba acid dyes and Maiwa’s natural dyeing kit sitting in my laundry room, waiting for me. I’ve yet to summon the courage to try them, but today may be the day. I’ve been so lucky to work with some amazing indie dyers – Laura at Crooked Kitchen Yarns, for example – but since I can source some heritage breed yarns locally, it makes sense to learn to dye them myself. However, since those yarns aren’t superwash, I won’t be starting with them. Instead, I’ve got some good ol’ merino/nylon sock yarn to dabble with – I’m not likely to use it for anything, so it’s a good one to play with and, hopefully, not ruin.

Sweaters! I’ve gotten the hang of designing shawls and hats, and I’ve bee working on mittens, so it’s time to start with the garments that are in my head. This is a scary thing, too. A shawl doesn’t need to fit in the same way a sweater does – a shawl is seldom too long. Nor is it likely to have a gaping neckline, misshapened sleeves, or too-tight armscythes. It doesn’t have to fit a particular bust size, or shoulders, or waists, or hips. A sweater does. Or, at least, it would be nice if it did! I know a lot of people who don’t wear sweaters because they don’t fit, and I’d like to offer sweater patterns that can be customized to allow for the fact that we’re all different shapes. That may be a long term dream, though – I’ve still got a lot to learn. But, I’ve got to start somewhere, so I’ve got a little open-style cardigan in the works, which should be a quick knit. Plus, because it’s designed to be worn open, I shouldn’t have to work about bust shaping too much. Today is cast-on day for it – fingers crossed!

Assorted and sundry – I’ve still got to figure out what to do about this website. WordPress has worked for the last while, but I admit, it isn’t particularly professional. Plus, I’m going to need a proper logo, both for my designs and for, potentially, yarn sales. Trying to get all of this done has been a challenge, because I’m learning as I go. Though I ran my own music studio for years, that didn’t require quite as much business-related stuff as what I’m now doing. I already know that I’m probably going to need a virtual assistant soonish. How soonish will depend on when I’ve got funds that are steady enough to pay someone. Until then, I will continue to struggle with organization – that’s never been my strong suit, but I’m working on it!

Now, while I was on my bloggin hiatus, new designs happened! To see all of them, because there’s quite a few, pop on over to the knitting patterns section. But, here’s a couple to entice you!

The Tundra Toque, which just came out today…

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The Fires of Beltaine shawl, one of my favourite designs…

 

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And, the Verdigris cowl…

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And, with that, it’s back to the needles for me!

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New Releases, and my first KAL!

So, today is release day for my newest shawl pattern, the Harvest of Lughnasadh, and to celebrate, I’m hosting my first KAL!

 

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What is a KAL, you ask? Well! KAL stands for “knit-along”! I’m hosting the KAL in my Ravelry group, and participants will be sharing photos of their yarn choices, their progress, and will be eligible for prizes! Laura from Crooked Kitchen Yarn (who dyes absolutely gorgeous yarn!) will be joining in the fun, and three hanks of her yarn will be among the prizes, as well as free patterns from my pattern store. For more details and for sign-up information, follow the link!

I also released Sea Glass a few weeks ago, and for a limited time, the pattern is free! This is a great chance to test out one of my patterns without any risk (other than your time and yarn, of course). This shawl knits up quickly, and is great for that skein of crazily coloured yarn that’s been lurking in the stash.

 

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As well, I was at Knit City in Vancouver this past weekend, which was both overwhelming and fun! I took part in a photography workshop run by Ysolda Teague (!) and purchased WAY too much yarn. Plus, I got to meet the yarnies behind some of my favourite yarn – Caroline from Ancient Arts, Sarah of Bumblebirch Yarns, and Melissa of Sweet Fiber Yarns. Very cool, and very fun!

 

 

 

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New Pattern Releases: Grain Moon and Sprouting Grass Moon

Two new patterns have gone live the last while – introducing Grain Moon.

 

 

 

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….and Sprouting Grass Moon!

 

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Both of these patterns are now available for purchase on Ravelry. Meanwhile, I’ve been working away on the last two patterns in my moon series, Thunder Moon and Blue Moon. The prototypes are done, so now I’ve just got to write up the patterns and get them into testing. Then, while my trusty testers are working away, I’ll be reformatting all the moon patterns and getting them ready to be published in e-book form. I’ve never self-published before, so it should be interesting!

 

 

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A new pattern release: Petrichor!

Boy, I’ve been neglecting the blog lately – sorry about that. It’s just…knitting takes time. There’s no two ways about it, and lots of knitting means not much blog-updating.

The good news is that I’ve had a new pattern go live on Ravelry – Petrichor! This is my first beaded pattern, although it also looks fantastic without beads. I wanted something that was a bit of a palate-cleanser for me, as the last few months, I’ve been working fairly detailed lace. This pattern is just eyelets, and they’re randomly placed, so the pattern doesn’t require a whole lot of concentration. And, for a more experienced knitter, the beads add a little bit of extra interest, although it would also make a good first project so someone who hasn’t beaded before.

 

The other bit of news I have to share is that I’ll be selling some of my knitted items on Etsy. They aren’t there quite yet (I’ll post when I have items available), but I’ve had people asking. So – soon!

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Two New Releases: The Shrubbery Toque and Rose Moon!

I’ve been double-dog sick with a crappy cold for the past week (ugh), but a new release brightens even the gloomiest days for me! The pattern for Rose Moon went live today. Rose Moon is my biggest pattern to date – three border options, which translates to 6 charts and a whole lot of text! Fortunately, I had some fantastic test knitters and wunderbar tech-editor help me get it into tip-top shape.

 

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Also, my first hat pattern, the Shrubbery Toque, went live a couple of weeks ago and I got to post about it. Oops. Promo is not my forte, that’s for certain, but I’m here now, and so is Shrubbery!

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The Shrubbery Toque will eventually have matching mittens, but those may be a while coming – each new type of pattern comes with a huge learning curve, I’ve discovered, which is exciting and a bit overwhelming at the same time. Until then, I’ve got more shawls in the pipeline, and some new hats, and that darn sweater that I’ve started but haven’t finished because I’ve gotten a case of the Daunts. Ah well – first I need to get over this cold (I’m out of bed today, at least!), and then, I’ll sort out the Daunts…

Happy knitting! Happy creating!

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Blocking a Crescent Shaped Shawl

Oh, hey there, Blog. Seems I’ve been neglecting you a wee bit. Oops. In my defense, I’ve been knitting up a storm the last while, trying to get a few designs under my belt because I know I’ll have less time to knit during the summer. Hopefully, I’ll get the website up to date in the next few days!

But, one thing I’ve been meaning to address for a while is how to blocking a crescent-shaped shawl – or, at least, how I do it. See, it seems many people have trouble with the crescent-shaped shawl bump, which marrs that nice straight edge all shawls should have. I’ve been actively trying to find a cast-on that prevents that hump, and it seems that I’ve got it sussed out, more or less. But, I’ve noticed that blocking is a huge part of getting a nicely shaped crescent-shaped shawl, and it just doesn’t seem like many people talk about the how-tos of blocking. Most knitting patterns say “block”, but they don’t state how to block in a manner that will help a knitter arrive at a nicely shaped finished object. I’m sure there are plenty of other ways of doing this, but since I seem to be able to get a nice straight edge on my crescent-shaped shawls on a regular basis, I thought I’d share my process in case it helps others.

Warning: this is an image heavy post! But, I figure that’s the best way of doing things, since blocking can take an hour or more to do!

For this little tutorial, I’m using a lace weight version of my Sap Moon shawl. This is what it looked like once I had bound-off:

 

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Gizzy Cat demanded a cameo, hence the weird crop on this photo.

 

The lower edge of the shawl will become the curved border, and the curved edge, at the back of the frame, will become the straight edge. So, basically, when you bind off a crescent-shaped shawl, it’s an inverted triangle (and a bit ugly looking). Blocking will reverse that, along with opening up all those lovely lace stitches.

Before you block, you’ll need a couple of things. First of all, you’ll need something thin and straight that you can weave into the stitches along the straight edge. I purchased a wire blocking kit from my LYS about a year ago, and it has been wonderful. It came with 4 long straight wires, 2 long flexible wires, 6 shorter straight wires, and a set of t-pins. The set cost me about $25, and I consider this money very well spent! The second thing you’ll need is more t-pins. T-pins are used for quilting, and therefore also called quilting pins. I’m not sure how many I currently have, but I think it’s always better to have too many than not enough (that’s the general rule with blocking and pins!). I purchased mine at my local Michael’s, but they’re also availabe at most sewing and quilting stores. They do come in various weights and lengths – try to get heavy ones, as I find the finer pins bend too easily. And, I also have a spray bottle on hand in case my knitting begins to dry out as I’m blocking – oh, and my handy dandy blocking mat. It was a Christmas gift from my husband, and what I really like about it is that it’s got a grid, which makes it easy to line things up. However, the mat is a luxury, not a necessity. Many people use the interlocking rubber mats used for children’s playrooms, although it’s possible to block on any surface that will hold a pin. I use to block directly onto our carpet – probably not good for the underlay, but it needs to be replaced, so…

Anyhow! If you don’t have a thin, straight wire, bamboo BBQ skewers work in a pinch. You’ll need more of them, but they’re a cheap alternative (but do consider a blocking kit – you’ll be glad you did!).

The next thing you’ll need is a curved wire – I’ve actually take one of the straight wires from my blocking kit and curved it into the approximate shawl of the outer edge of a crescent-shaped shawl. I found the flexible wires a bit too flexible, so the firmer gauge wire works for me. Now, this isn’t absolutely necessary – it is entirely possible to pin out the edge of a shawl without a shaped wire, but I’ve found it gives me a lot more control over how I stretch out my lace. Plus, it saves time and pins, so that’s a win-win!

So, now that you have your supplies handy, give your lacework a wash and a soak. I usually soak mine for about 30 minutes or so in a sink full of lukewarm water. However, when it’s time to take the shawl out of the water, I don’t try to get all of the water out. I simply wrap my shawl in a towel, give it a light squeeze, and then, leave it fairly wet. This seems to work for me, but it’s important to make sure you support the lace at all times – don’t let it hang, or your lace will distort. I simply set the lace, still wrapped in the towel, on my blocking mat, unwrap it, and then shape the shawl a little.

 

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This is what my shawl looked like once I unwrapped it from the towel. Now, the curved edge is where it’s supposed to be, hooray!

So, now the shawl’s on your blocking surface. The next set is to determine which edge will become your straight edge, and also, determine where your cast-on tail is. I don’t weave my tails in until the blocking process is complete to make it a little easier, because the cast-on tail will help you determine the center of your shawl. Then, take your straight edge wire, and begin weaving it through the straight edge of the shawl, beginning about 1/3 of the way in from the left hand tip (or the right hand tip, if that’s more comfortable for you). Basically, you want that wire centered on the straight edge. I then use two shorter wires and weave them into the “wing tips” of the shawl – or, the bits on the right and left hand side that aren’t covered by that first wire. Some people might think it easier to weave the wires through the eyelets of a shawl (if the shawl has them), but I find, once I block the rest of the shawl, the eyelets get too big for my taste, but your mileage may vary!

 

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There’s the wire, woven through the first row of stitches past the eyelet row.

So, the straight edge now has a wire all the way along it. Next come the pins! To begin with, I take two pins and use them to secure the center of the straight edge wire, one on either side of the wire.  I always insert my pins at a 45 degree angle, as they seem to anchor the wires better this way, and I push them all the way down until they, well, pin the wire in place. I also have one pin angling to the left, and one to the right, just to make sure the center is nice and secure. Then, I begin to stretch the lace to the right, pinning as I go. Once that’s done, I pin down the left, taking care to make sure the left and right sides of my shawl are more or less the same length. Remember, more pins are better than less, especially since we’ll be putting a lot of pressure on that straight edge wire in the next step.

 

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A close up of the centering pins.

 

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The straight edge, all pinned out.

Now that the straight edge is nicely secure, take the shaped wire (if you’re using one) and insert it along the center of the curved edge. Then, move that wire away from the straight edge until you’re happy with how your lace looks. Pin it in place, using lots of pins, as the center will be under the most pressure. I usually insert my curved wire one repeat back from the edge of my shawls, leaving the edge free. This allows me a lot more control over how I finish my edges, as you’ll see in a bit.

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The curved wire is now in place along the center of the curved edge. It looks strange because the last repeat of stitches are all bunched up against the outer edge of the curved wire – these will be pinned out later.

Then, once the center of the curved wire is in place, begin to stretch and pin the sides. I use straight wires for the remaining of the curved edge, and generally don’t stretch the edges of the shawl as much as the center, as I find this gives the shawl a more pleasing shape.

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The right hand side of the curved edge is all pinned out!

 

 

Then, once the curved edge is nice and secure and I’m happy with how my lace looks, I go back to the center of the curve and begin to pin out the edge. When a shawl has a border, I usually pin out the repeats first – this is especially useful when I’m planning to pin the edge into points, but I also do it with scallops, as it’s much easier to get the scallops uniform this way. Plus, it’s a lot easier to take out one pin and adjust a point or a scallop than to have to unpin the entire edge and readjust.

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Pinned out points!

 

I pinned this shawl into points, but if I were pinning it into scallops, I’d insert the pins into the row of knitted stitches on either side of an eyelet, but not the eyelet itself. Pinning into an eyelet will make the eyelet look pointed, not rounded, but pinning into either side of the eyelet allows the eyelet to round, which is how I like my eyelets. Also, more pins are better than less pins, and insert these, too, at a forty-five degree angle. That might seem like a small thing, but it not only gives a better anchor, but it also helps prevent points where you don’t want points (unless, of course, you want points, in which case, put the pins in vertically).

So, that’s it! At the end, I often adjust things a little, and then, give the shawl a light spritz just to make sure everything sets properly. Then, all that’s left is to let it dry. Once I’m sure my shawl is completely dry, I carefully remove the pins and the wires, and then give it a little flap just to make sure I’ve gotten all the pins out. I’ve made the mistake of missing a pin and picking up a shawl, only to find a hidden pin has ripped a hole in my work, which is just heartbreaking! Then, let your shawl sit for a bit, just so it can adjust to its tension-free state. At this point, I’ll often reblock anything I’m not entirely happy with – after all, I’ve spent HOURS knitting my project. Having to wait a little longer isn’t much of a price to have something blocked just so.

Hopefully this will help others get a finished crescent-shaped shawl with a beautiful straight edge and no dreaded hump! But, one last tip: if that dreaded hump makes an appearance, I’ve found that a light reblock into an inverted crescent shape, with the center of the straight edge hollowing towards the curved edge, can really do wonders. Hopefully that’s not necessary, but it can help.

And, so you can see what the finish object looks like, my Sap Moon shawl in lace weight, with a lovely straight edge and a pointy curved edge!

 

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I’m sure others have more great advice, so feel free to share in the comments!

 

 

 

 

 

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Release day for Cold Moon!

So, at long last, the pattern for Cold Moon is now available for purchase on Ravelry. I’m particularly fond of this shawl, not only because I designed it, but because it really challenged me. I’ve never seen anything like it, and so I had to do a lot of reworking to get it just so. Fortunately, it’s been tested and all the test projects came out wonderfully, so now it can go off and be knitted up by other people – hooray!

 

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My thanks go out to all of my testers, who are such troopers, and to my good friend, Kari, who served as my model for this shawl. Now, I’m away because I’ve got a bazillion (exact number) of projects that need finishing, and time’s a-wasting!