Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Tuesdays are for embroidery

I've been cross-stitching a lot recently but not documenting it much. I hereby vow to share an embroidered snippet once a week. The image below contains foul language, so consider yourselves warned.

It's incomplete but not by much—I'm thinking about what small elements to add above and below what's there already, and I'll also want to line it with some matte black fabric to keep the silver on the back of the phone from showing through (as it does in the image). But it's getting close to done.

Which noise I am not sure

Monday, November 14, 2011

There were also hundreds of fluffy bunnies

Yesterday was the last day of the Royal Winter Fair, so we made the trip down to Toronto to witness the spectacle. I'd never been to an agricultural fair that didn't involve warehouse-sized rooms full of combines and wheat-braiding competitions, so this big-city Ontario version was novel for me.

We saw prize-winning apples!

Prizewinning apples

And inspected many fleeces (more on this subject anon)!

Coloured fleeces

We swooned over sweet sheepy faces!


And marvelled at a row of giant butts!


At the end of the day we were rewarded with a lovely cow with silky ears! Her handlers had a fan set up next to her enclosure so her ear furnishings waved in the breeze.

The best-furnished ears

The fleece auction was surprisingly exhilarating; Mel and I had a lot of (quiet, intense) fun making a slow circuit through the auction room examining each one and making notes on our cheat sheet. We didn't get our best beloved but did get our second-favourite, a massive handsome grey Romney-looking fleece from Gillian Mullins in Stirling. Today I washed a few locks to see what the deal was, and they are sturdy and glossy and long. Also bought were a shiny longwool fleece¹ and a creamy white Icelandic fleece I want to knit about twenty mittens out of.² It should be enough to last me until next November.

¹ What, we were curious. It placed sixth in its category and I felt sorry for the poor darling because it's lovely really; I promised it I'd make it into something pretty.

² Another One That Got Away was a beautiful moorit Icelandic lamb fleece. Sigh.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Suddenly, autumn!

I've been in kind of a knitting slump for the last couple of weeks, due to a terrible cold and some disruptive apartment renovations and a whirlwind trip with visiting parents. (I think I am emerging from the slump though, on which more soon.)

The bright side is that now our apartment has beautiful new windows. And I got to eat some delicious food in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

We had tea that was very nice.

Earl Grey

I was terribly decadent and ate like a fist-sized gob of clotted cream.


I guess we ate some tiny sandwiches? I don't remember them because I was distracted by this tier of dessert.

Dessert is the best

I could probably only handle such a meal about once every six months—it was delicious but so rich that it took us about two hours to work through at a slow and steady pace. It was a great antidote to the dreary weather, though.

Welland Canal

It's finally a wool-sock-wearing time of year, which is what's pulling me out of my knitting slump: I got some amazing glittery yarn in the mail thanks to Dale's October giveaway. My new colourway suggestion was yarn that was all the colours of this photograph of a pomegranate (plus glitter of course), and the resultant yarn is so beautiful that I needed to knit it immediately. I only have about twelve pairs of handknit socks, after all, and clearly that is nowhere near enough.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Saturday softie

There's an adorable MMO that I love and play constantly when it's available. (It is called Glitch, and you should sign up and be my friend: over there I am Aspasia Tuffet.) It's still in testing; sometimes (as now) the game is closed. What better time to make some fan art.


This is a version of the game's piggies, though I took some artistic license with fabric choice (the ones in the game aren't adorned with flowers). I followed this very empowering tutorial by Abby Glassenberg for pattern drafting and sewing up directions. The main fabric I used was the bonus Lecien linen I got in this month's Pressed Seam shipment:

Pressed Seam, September

I also used tiny scraps of the narrowly striped fabric from the same group to line the piggy's ears.


Anyway, now I am looking at my quilting fabrics with fresh eyes, and all I see is animals. The Anna Maria Horner Stockings fabric (above, bottom centre) would make an excellent zebra!

Monday, September 19, 2011

Puzzle Stripe Mittens

The last week has been the first properly autumny week there's been in my city so far, and I am totally thrilled. It's jacket weather! wool sock weather! scarf weather! bread-baking weather! impending glove and mitten weather! knitting with wool without intolerable sweatiness weather!

To celebrate I made a pair of mittens, and they're for you, internet.


I watched Lynne and Gayle's Hexalong all summer with a lot of interest, because I love hexagons! love them! I haven't been able to muster the dedication necessary for making an entire hexagon anything, but I did come up with a little stranded colourwork pattern with hexagons in it, and turned it into mittens. I have christened these Puzzle Stripe Mittens because the hexagons are made out of wiggling lines that look a bit interlocking/confusing/puzzle-like at first. Once the pattern is established, though, it's pretty easy to follow, and there are no areas where you'll need to make a long float behind the work that will catch your fingers when you try to put a mitten on. The palms and thumbs are patterns with narrow stripes for quickness of knitting and fun-ness of contrast with the backs of the hands.

Front and back

The yarn I used was Jamieson's Heather Aran in Burnt Umber (CC) and Grouse (MC). The skeins were 100 yards and one of each colour produced a pair of mittens, but there wasn't a lot left over. To substitute a comparable yarn, be on the lookout for a heavy worsted weight that is lofty and crisp.


As written this pattern will produce a pair of mittens that measure 7.5" in circumference above the thumb. (The wrists are slightly smaller around for a closer fit despite the lack of ribbing.) This is smallish, but if you choose a puffy-sproingy-squishy yarn like I did and keep a loose tension when stranding the unused colour behind the work, this size is reasonably accommodating. (My hands are 7.5" around above the thumb, and the mittens feel nice with no ease.) Slightly smaller yarn and needles (like a regular worsted weight with 3.5mm needles) would size them down handily; try slightly bigger yarn and needles (Knit Picks City Tweed HW and 4.5mm needles would be excellent). The lengths of the cuff, hand, and thumb are easily adjusted on the fly; try the mitten on periodically to make sure you're on the right track.


  • 100 yards aran-weight yarn in each of two contrasting colours (shown in Jamieson's Heather Aran in Grouse and Burnt Umber, 1 skein each)
  • 4mm and 4.5mm double-pointed needles
  • 4 stitch markers
  • scrap yarn
  • tapestry needle


20 sts and 22 rnds = 4" in Palm patt

Finished size

7.5" hand circumference, measured above the thumb. Hand and thumb lengths are adjustable.


The mittens begin with a length of I-cord that forms the edge of the cuff. Work 4-st I-cord over 4 sts on double-pointed needles as follows:
Row 1: K4, do not turn. Slide sts to opposite end of double-pointed needle.
Repeat this row to make 4-st I-cord.
(For a video of this technique, see this page on knittinghelp.com.)

Required skills


k: knit
rnd: round
st: stitch
ssk: slip two stitches separately and knitwise, insert the left needle through both of them, and knit them together (1 stitch decreased)
k2tog: knit two together (1 stitch decreased)
sk2p: slip 1 stitch purlwise, k2tog, and pass the slipped stitch over (2 stitches decreased)
MC: main colour
CC: contrasting colour
CO: cast on
beg: beginning
foll: following
pm: place marker
rem: remaining



Puzzle Stripe Key


Puzzle Stripe Cuff


Puzzle Stripe Hand


Puzzle Stripe Palm


Puzzle Stripe Gusset


Puzzle Stripe Thumb

Right mitten

With larger needles and MC, provisionally CO 4 sts. Work 4-st I-cord for 40 rows. Do not break yarn. Place 4 live sts on hold.
Switch to smaller needles. With working yarn still attached, pick up and k 1 st in each row of I-cord along its length, taking care not to twist the cord. 40 sts picked up. Divide sts between needles for working in the rnd and join. Mark or note beg of rnd.
Beg foll Cuff chart, working the 8-st repeat 5 times each rnd. Continue until 19 rnds of patt have been worked.

Next rnd: Work Hand chart over first 21 sts in rnd, pm, work Palm chart over rem 19 sts.
Continue as established for 2 more rnds.
Next rnd: Work in established Hand patt to first marker, work next 2 sts in established Palm patt, place first gusset marker, work rnd 1 of Gusset chart, place second gusset marker, work to end of rnd in established Palm patt.
Continue to work patts as established until all rnds of Gusset chart have been completed.
Next rnd: Work in established patts to first gusset marker, remove marker, sl next 13 sts to scrap yarn, remove next marker, CO 3 sts using the backwards loop method, work to end of rnd in established patt. 42 sts.

Next rnd: Work in Hand patt to marker, work in Palm patt to end of rnd.
Continue as established until work measures 3.75" from the CO edge above the thumbhole, or until the mitten just covers the tip of the little finger when tried on.
Next rnd: With MC, ssk; work in established patt to 2 sts before marker; with MC, k2tog; with CC, k1; with MC, ssk; work in established patt to last 3 sts in rnd; with MC, k2tog; with CC, k1. 4 sts decreased.
Repeat last rnd until 10 sts rem.
Next rnd: With MC, ssk; work in established patt for 1 st; with MC, k2tog; with CC, k1; with MC, sk2p; with CC, k1.
Next rnd: With MC, sk2p. Break off both colours. Thread MC through rem sts, pull tight, and fasten off.

Transfer 13 thumb gusset sts on hold to needles. Join both colours. Work across 13 sts in Palm patt. With MC, pick up and k 3 sts from CO edge of hand. Mark or note beg of rnd. 16 sts.
Next rnd: Work in Thumb patt.
Continue until thumb measures 2", or desired finished length. Break off CC.
Next rnd: With MC, k2tog around. 8 sts rem.
Break yarn, thread it through rem sts, and fasten off.

Left mitten

Work cuff as for right mitten.

Next rnd: Work Hand chart over first 21 sts in rnd, pm, work Palm chart over rem 19 sts.
Continue as established for 2 more rnds.
Next rnd: Work in established Hand patt to first marker, work to last 3 sts of rnd in established Palm patt, place first gusset marker, work rnd 1 of Gusset chart, place second gusset marker, work to end of rnd in established Palm patt.
Continue to work patts as established until all rnds of Gusset chart have been completed.
Next rnd: Work in established patts to first gusset marker, remove marker, sl next 13 sts to scrap yarn, remove next marker, CO 3 sts using the backwards loop method, work to end of rnd in established patt. 42 sts.

Work hand and thumb as for right mitten.


Carefully undo the provisional CO from each cuff, transferring sts to a needle as they become live. Transfer 4 sts on hold to another needle. Graft the two sets of 4 sts together, taking care to match tension as closely as possible. Weave in all ends, but don't cut them off yet. Use the ends at the base of the thumb to mend any holes in the area if necessary. Block mittens by soaking in lukewarm water, squeezing out excess water in a towel, and laying flat to dry. When mittens are completely dry, cut off the woven-in ends.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Hélène of The Icelandic Knitter and Theodóra took the striped shawl I made for them on a hike through some excellent mountains, and sent pictures to prove it.

MOUNTAINS. The city where I live is a smear across a modest rise that everyone calls "The Mountain" (it's really an escarpment, the same one that Niagara Falls plunges off of). While I have cultivated a fondness for The Mountain, thinking about it too hard makes me miss the rocky and jagged kind with glaciers and forests.

Mountains are outstanding

More interest elsewhere: Tracy of Tangled Online Magazine took the crocheted cuff edge from the socks I made for her, blew up the gauge, and turned it into a fantastic cowl. I love how the lace changes when it's worked at a chunky gauge—still pretty, but bold and substantial, though not indelicate. Her project has gotten me curious about what other delicate crocheted edgings would look like in worsted-or-heavier yarn, so there's going to be some experimenting in my future.

And Eileen posted this exciting seasoning idea last month, which I got around to making this week. Let me tell you: gomasio should go on everything forever. Except possibly the things that already have homemade celery salt on them.

Today I am engaged in a pitched battle with the weather: it's threatening rain and the humidity is hovering around 80%, but I want to block some mittens. Oven on low heat to the rescue!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Since last we spoke

I have been making some progress in my quest to use up the City Tweed box.

Quilty mitten backs

These are both sort of quilty, because I have been pretty fixated on patchwork recently. Adapting my patchwork doodles on quad paper to knitting was an interesting challenge. The first problem is trying to make them recognizable (at least with some squinting and concentration, or once someone's pointed out the source) despite not being able to have clean diagonal lines or half- and quarter-square triangle units in which all the pieces are the same size. This shortcoming ("design feature") is clearest in the pinwheel mitten on the right, I think. You can see that the light triangles and dark triangles aren't the same size, and that the dark triangles aren't really triangles at all, they're sort of half-butterfly shapes. It still works, though.

The Ohio Star mitten on the left looks like an optical illusion to me. Each star has concentric squares in the middle, surrounded by eight light-coloured triangles; the rest is just filler so it's not necessary to strand the unused colour behind more than three stitches. I think it ends up looking like an optical illusion (focus on the stars and the checkerboard is less obvious… focus on the checkerboard and you can't see the stars).

I liked the concentric squares that make the centre of each star so much that I put a smaller, checkerboard version of them on the palm. (This also appears on the cuff of the pinwheel mitten: I am nothing if not willing to recycle my own work.)

Quilty mitten palms

Then I was thinking about how concentric squares change character when turned on point, and how good a mitten that would make, and before I knew it there was a pair of them.

Soft Shetland mittens

These ones are not City Tweed—they're made out of Jamieson Soft Shetland (RIP). One pair took just a hair under two skeins, so I'm pretty pleased. The finished fabric is thick and spongy and assertively woolly.

My left thumb is pretty upset with me for knitting this many mittens in a short timeframe, so no knitting for me today—instead I have designs on this stuff.

Apricots and friends

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Terse Tuesday

It's coming up on cold weather accessory season, and today I got a box in the mail full of yarn to play with:

A variety of City Tweeds

Knit Picks is very generous and I am pleased to know them! These yarns are mostly blues, greens, and greys, plus a few others for contrast (the blackberry-coloured yarn is my favourite, but so is the toffee-coloured one and the bright pink—so basically, everything). I foresee all kinds of mittens in my future.

Unrelatedly, Karen Tusinski's Gallery Fiori collection is out today, and I want a bolt of everything.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Can and must

I am hopelessly distracted by the immense amount of beautiful fruit that is suddenly available in the grocery store near my house. No knitting to show you, just jam.

Apricot jam

I have been wanting to try more interesting jams this year, but also wanted to start small and ease into the swing of it, so jam #1 is the very plainest apricot jam. I chopped five apricots and measured the volume of the fruit, added ¾ of that volume in sugar, juiced a lemon into it, brought it to a simmer, and then left it in the fridge overnight. The next day I strained out the apricots and brought the syrup to 220F before adding them back, jarring, and processing. The result is awesome big cohesive chunks of fruit that are very soft, and an intense apricot flavour. I think the jam tastes more like apricots than my apricots did.

#2 is plum and cardamom jam, made from an assortment of plums (I couldn't decide which variety to buy so got some of each). The plums got chopped and macerated too:

Macerated plums

But this time I stirred in about ½ tsp of cardamom before putting it to bed in the fridge, just enough so that I could smell it underneath the plums. The syrup deepened from scarlet to ruby red as it thickened, and when I stirred in the plums it turned downright burgundy, and stayed that way.

Plum cardamom jam

I may need more jars despite my resolution to can only in small batches. I still have peaches in the kitchen (five of them, to which I will add ginger!) and have been eyeing up blackberries (maybe ginger also?) and strawberries (basil!).

This is my high-tech canning setup:

Ad hoc canning rack

That's seven rings from the tops of jars tied together with silk thread, in the bottom of my biggest (only) stock pot. It was a little startling how well it worked: the bottom of a jar just fits in the top of each ring, and it looks slightly precarious to me but none of them have fallen over in the boiling water yet. If a bigger kitchen falls into my lap and I suddenly have room for a canner + rack, it's easy enough to cut the rings apart and stick them back in their box. Excellent.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Fit to print

I have three items to report!

First, two pairs of lace stockings that I made in the spring are finally in a state that I can show you:

© Interweave Knits

They're Hex Mesh Stockings from the Fall 2011 issue of Interweave Knits. The knee-highs take around 400m of laceweight yarn if you knit the smaller size, and the mesh is very quick to knit once you get started. (The pattern will be uncomfortably familiar to Niebling aficionados—the thigh-high version in particular is a lot of hex mesh.)

The yarn they sent me to knit the stockings was Malabrigo Lace, which definitely makes a luxuriant fabric but definitely doesn't make a durable one. I'm not sure what laceweight yarn would be a better fit for these socks; maybe something like Mithril, or fine tightly-twisted handspun if you can produce it. I have a fairly extensive lace yarn shelf and don't see anything in it that would be ideal, other than maybe one of the pure silks. In any case, the magazine will be on newsstands on August 9, and I am pretty excited to see it.

Second and third: I'm not going to be at Sock Summit this year, but I'm already feeling well-represented there. You can go to Miss Babs's booth and say hi to the Windsor Mitts:

Windsor mitts - open and closed

Mittens with flip-tops and half-fingers concealed inside! They took a little under 200 yards each of Miss Babs's delectable 3-ply superwash sock yarn in Roasted Pumpkin and Cadet. I used to be wary about stranded colourwork with superwash yarn, but this stuff is so springy that it works beautifully for this purpose, and I am wary no longer! The fabric is thick and heavy and utterly perfect for mittens. The ribbing it makes is admirably springy, too. If I were only allowed one yarn to ever knit with again, it would be a contender for top spot.

And you can see my cute bright orange knee socks with bold crocheted lace cuffs at the Tangled booth:

© Brittany Tyler, Tangled Magazine

These are made from 2 skeins of Spud & Chloë Fine. The crocheted cuff is worked flat, one medallion at a time, then joined into a ring; the knitted part begins immediately after the eyelet round through which the ribbons are threaded. I had a hard time sending them away because I didn't want to take them off. I am also now having irrepressible urges to crochet edge treatments for everything.

Tangled gave me a coupon code to distribute: use SOCKSUMMIT11 at checkout to get $1 off any pattern from their Sock Summit issue, which is right over here.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


I signed up for the new fat quarter club from Verb, which had its first shipment at the beginning of July; then I went away to the beautiful distracting coast for two weeks and totally forgot what month it was. When I got home, this was waiting for me.

Pressed Seam, July

They are all so good. The mushroom fabric! The blue Lecien one with the delicate pink flowers! The exuberant Brandon Mably clover!! I cannot pick a favourite and am really gleefully excited about how the rest of the shipments will look. What an auspicious beginning!

Kristine issued a challenge to us over in the club's Flickr group, which was to use five of the six fabrics in the same object. I have been having really elaborate daydreams about tiles and penny round tile patterns in particular, so I decided to commit one that I liked to yo-yos.

I made all of these in the sweltering heat this week. Sewing yo-yos is very soothing and soporific, and doesn't require you to heat up the iron or stay in the sewing room where the air conditioner doesn't reach.

Here is the assemblage:


The central few rounds are sewn together, but I am still undecided about the outer ring—I could sew it together as pictured, or add some plain off-white ones to make the whole thing a bit less busy. (I have a Mason jar of white yo-yos in case I decide on the latter course.)

What I'll do with it remains to be seen. I'm thinking about making a quilted background hexagon and sewing the yo-yo one to its front, to make a sturdy trivet or wallhanging. I have enough fabric left in these fat quarters to make a couple more small hex tile-inspired pieces, and could turn them into a little set of trivets or wallhangings. The future is wide open!


I came home from the marvellously cool coast to the worst weather ever.

Worst day ever

It's pretty much too hot to do anything other than lie motionless directly in front of the air conditioner. Even then it's pretty miserable. The Starbucks near my house is kept blessedly, bracingly cold, and I have been setting up camp there in the afternoons to enjoy the sensation of shivering before I step out onto the sidewalk and get blasted by the soupy heat again.

I have been having a lot of trouble knitting, partly because the humidity makes everything sticky and partly because the heat makes my hands swell up just enough to be clumsy. I started a tiny nearly-weightless project on steel needles so that I'd have something to knit at least some of the time, when nothing else seems to be working.

When in doubt...

It will be a veil (because apparently when I don't know what to knit, I can't help but decide on something supremely impractical). I am fondly remembering this beach, which is a tiny bay surrounded by rocks and a forest, so the veil will be a sort of stylized map. Pictured above are the "trees" and the "rocks" which border the innermost "wave" pattern, which is row after row of horizontal zigzags. Once it's the right size I will figure out some kind of knitted-on edging solution.

The yarn is Filatura di Crosa Nirvana, which I cannot recommend highly enough. I'd want to knit with it even if I could knit other things!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Six by six

This is how I've been spending my last day at the coast:

Morris Tapestry quilt top

It's small (42" a side) and I am considering getting more fabric and giving it a couple of borders made from half-square triangles of different sizes. When I was cutting out pieces and working on one block at a time, it seemed like the colours were a lot more varied than they are—all together it has a kind of beachy weathered look, thanks to all the taupes and browns. As noted before the fabrics are all from Barbara Brackman's collection "A Morris Tapestry".

I am also in desperate need of a new bag, because my old grey messenger bag is about to fall apart after three years of faithful service. The fabric where the strap is attached at both sides is falling apart from the stress of e.g. lugging home eight litres of milk (hey, it fits in the bag!). I decided that the replacement should be smaller so that I am not encouraged to ruin it in the same way. A bag that I'll actually use also needs to have no Velcro and few or no zippers, because it's too easy to snag knitting or yarn in them.

There weren't any bags that fit the bill in the stores I wandered through, but then I was looking at Susan Briscoe's Japanese Taupe Quilts, and there's an excellent bag idea toward the back. It's a small bag with a messenger-style flap made out of three quilted panels, a gusset with box pleats at the top of either side for shaping, and a lining. Excellent.

Leanne had some Kaffe Fassett striped and shot cottons sitting around, so I made use of three fat quarters. Here's the front flap:

patchwork bag, flap

It opens to reveal this panel:

patchwork bag, front

And this is what's on the back:

patchwork bag, back

I used a remnant of black linen (? it certainly felt like linen) to line it. Finished dimensions are 12" wide by 10" tall by 3" deep. The strap is 40" long, which is a comfortable length for slinging across my body. Probably later this afternoon I'll make a couple 4" or 5" blocks and line them and sew them in as patch pockets. The bag is probably not big enough to actually lose anything in, but pockets can't hurt.

This is how it looks outside:

Incoming storm

And how it's looked for most of the last week and a half. It was pretty great to have a break from Ontario's sweltering heat.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I am hanging out on the west coast this week and next, and it is pretty awesome here. There are rocks to scramble around on:

Rocky beach

and mountains and rain and the sea:

Mountains and the sea

and a poodle to snuggle:

Shade-dappled poodle

and seals hoping to be given delicious fish heads:

Hopeful seal

and a Morris Tapestry by Barbara Brackman layer cake that I am cutting into triangles:

A lot of quarter square triangles

(Pardon the blurriness. At least the colours are accurate.)