February 20, 2005


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Beth Brown-Reinsel, guru of ganseys.

Day 2 of gansey class, while we were discussing the finer points of designing ganseys and the gauge thereof, I had the opportunity to ask about re-sizing the River Grass Gansey that I want to make. You'll recall that I made this swatch for that sweater, but then felt stymied by the gigantic leaps between the sizes (jumping from a 36 to a 48 to a 52" chest measurement):

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I showed Beth the swatch and the pattern, and she understood at once the problem. She suggested that I adjust the main cable to get to the size I'd need. In other words, knit the medium-sized sweater, but substitute a cable that would be fewer stitches wide, to make a smaller sweater. Or, knit the smallest size, but substitute a cable that would be several stitches larger, to make a larger sweater. So, Dear Reader, watch for some more swatching in my future. (Beth emphasized throughout the class that, when designing a gansey, one would need to swatch the yarn in simple stockinette, as well as swatch each and every cable.)

Kelli, who was pictured with Margarite and Mt Rainier in my last blog entry, was the only one in gansey class to actually finish the mini sweater during class time. I finished sleeve #1 and most of sleeve #2, but found myself easily distracted during Day #2 of gansey class, which was the third day of the retreat. (I had some Two Swans errands, as well as meeting up with other knitters who'd come to the retreat.)

The most challenging thing for me to learn in gansey class was making the shoulder strap that joins each front shoulder to its corresponding back shoulder. I've never made a sweater that has this construction technique before. What one does is to cast on for the cable (or whatever stitch pattern would comprise the strap), and then use it to bridge together the front and back shoulders. The bridging is done by working short rows, and the connections are made with decreases. Knitting this was an act of faith. I'll confess I didn't quite have the vision for what I was doing, and my first attempt was to join the right front armhole edge with the right front neck edge. Duh. After that, I paid closer attention to the directions. The straps (one on each shoulder) came out beautifully.

Today was Maine Mittens class:
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You'll recognize here one of my absolutely favorite colors, chartreuse, being used in a stranded colorwork mitten. Remember how I vowed in my last entry to pay especial attention to my color choices, to broaden my horizons beyond black and red, beyond purple and red? Ooh, I am sooo tempted to claim credit for this chartreuse-and-blue mitten. Here's the woman who actually knitted this mitten, and who claimed that this color was tiring to her eyes:

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Yes, it's Mary B, a fellow Feral knitter!

The knitter in this class who finished one mitten before lunch break, was:
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Feral Knitter Andrea! (Notice the Fair Isle vest she's wearing?)

I didn't even know, when I signed up for this class last November, what a Maine mitten was or that I would want to knit one. But Maine mittens are a traditional knitting form, and so of course appealed to me with my traditional knitting bent. You can find out more about Maine mittens from the book by Robin Hansen, Fox and Geese and Fences (among other sources).

But, having in the past few days revisited the subject of Fair Isle and stranded colorwork gloves and mittens, my consciousness about knitting these items has been awakened. Beth B-R taught us all about thumb gussets, and I'm ready to tackle more Maine Mittens as well as Fair Isle gloves. Also, because the mittens are double-stranded wool, they are ultra warm -- a perfect item for knitting and donating to the Mongolian childen who live in an extremely cold climate and who are the beneficiaries of the Dulaan Project.

That chartreuse-and-blue beauty of Mary's was sized to fit a child. She was using a thicker wool and larger needles than I. I used Kid Classic and one size smaller needles, but exactly the same stitch count and pattern. Here's the result, wristband ribbing still in progress:


The coin at the left of the mitten is a quarter, and meant to show scale. My mitten might fit a toddler. Notice that I used navy blue and light blue, highly contrasting colors, and broke out of my purple-red-black habit? (Yes, it is true that the minute I saw Mary's skeins of chartreuse and blue, I wished that those were the colors I had.... Still, I'm happy with my choice. This two-color stitch pattern for this mitten, called "Spruce," makes just about every choice of two highly contrasting colors look good.) Again, a fair day's worth of knitting, wouldn't you say?

Everyone in class agreed that these mittens were extremely fun to knit. The stranded colorwork has a four-stitch repeat, and Beth explained up front how to read our knitting and follow the colorwork so as not to get lost. The decreases to shape the top of the mitten follow the colorwork, too -- as do the thumb shaping and tip-of-thumb decreases. Beth's handout for this class was self-explanatory and easy-to-follow (as were her handouts for the classes on Fair Isle tams and on ganseys). I'm willing to forge ahead with not only mitten #2, but even another pair or two of these, they were such a fun knitting project.

Posted by Karen at 09:01 PM | Comments (4)

February 18, 2005


Day 1 of gansey class, and front and back of mini sweater are complete:
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You can just see the underam gussets peeking out from the sides -- those stitches are currently being held aside on waste yarn. It was a full day of knitting.

The mountain was out! Kelli, Margarite, and I took a break outside.
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Kelli came all the way from Maryland to take this class with Beth Brown-Reinsel (who herself is from Maryland). Margarite is one of my Feral Knit-buds. Although you can't see it in this photo, Margarite was wearing a marvelous Aran sweater she'd designed herself. And with it she brought specific questions to class -- how to shape necklines and armholes and how to know ahead of time how long to make the sleeves. As it turns out, these are all topics that will be covered tomorrow, in Day 2 of gansey class. (As a bit of foreshadowing, Beth B-R let us know that she likes to use neckline gussets to help shape them so that they both fit over the wearer's head and fit at the neck without becoming boatnecks.) Looking forward to learning more about designing ganseys, too, tomorrow.

Posted by Karen at 10:21 PM | Comments (2)

February 17, 2005


Yesterday I met for coffee with a very delightful knitter who was visiting from Canada. She's another Fair Isle fanatic, and wanted to buy Spindrift to make a pair of gloves, specifically, the pair featured on the lower-left of the cover of Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves. (The pattern is called "Earth-tones Allover Variation," from page 66 of that book.) After one phone call and half-a-dozen e-mails back and forth about potential color choices, we'd settled on a couple of different colorways that would be possible for these gloves, and we agreed to meet up at a nearby coffehouse.

I carried the potential yarn choices in to the coffee shop with me, certain only that I was meeting a Canadian knitter. I had no idea what the woman looked like. We hadn't said anything like I'll wear a red rose, so I wasn't sure how we'd recognize each other. Of course, Bonnie knew instantly when I walked in, carrying a big box of yarn, that I was there to meet her. And I recognized instantly this lady wearing a gorgeous handknitted, cabled sweater.

"I'm not sure about these internet assignations," she said, "but you must be the one!"

Bonnie set down on the table a glove that she'd knitted, one of the Wilma Malcombson designs from Knitting Fair Isle Mittens and Gloves (the "Small Lozenge Star," page 86, if you are keeping track). Even as I was asking her permission, I was already trying it on. This particular pattern was one I myself had admired and meant to knit, about a year ago.

As we were talking, Bonnie explained about how the book doesn't really give a specific pattern, in terms of how many stitches to cast on, or in terms of explaining how to knit a thumb gusset, and the like. It does give color charts, but the book presumes that the knitter already has a good working knowledge of how to knit gloves. Ah yes, I remembered then that I'd only ever gotten as far as casting on for the pair of gloves I'd wanted to make, then faltered over whether to cast on 48 or 60 stitches, and so had stopped dead cold.

Over the course of the conversation, it became clear to me that Bonnie had not only knit the one Wilma Malcombson glove (the one that I tried on again and again while we were having coffee), and not only was she going to knit the cover gloves, but she had also experimented with several other pairs of gloves in that book. I think she's set herself on a course of knitting every single pair in that book! That dedication to Fair Isle knitting certainly resonates with me.

I left our meeting feeling very inspired to go back to that pair that I'd wanted to make, and to try them again.

This inspiration was only further fueled by Carol Rhoades's presentation at Seattle Knitters Guild yesterday evening. Carol showed slides of her recent trip to Scandinavia, including many, many photos of two-color gloves and mittens. Clearly, other people can knit gloves, so why not me? And a glove is a small canvas, so it should be something I can experiment with (in terms of color choices) and still finish.

Today I've been at the retreat put on by Madrona Fiber Arts. I've been in a Fair Isle tams class taught by Beth Brown-Reinsel. Using worsted weight wool, we've knitted a whole tam in this one-day class. Once the knitting began and I spilled out of my bag the yarns I had brought, I had to laugh at my color choices: black (main color) with purple, red, and chartreuse. There's not enough contrast for black, purple, and red to really show up well against each other. I knew that, not only intellectually, but also from hard-earned experience, from a certain purple and red Fair Isle sweater I knitted years ago.

And yet, there I was, making this same color choice again. It reminded me that at last year's retreat, when I took shadow knitting with Vivan Hoxbro, I chose black as my background color with a pink-and-red variegated yarn... and then there was that class I took in entrelac knitting a few years ago at the TKGA convention, where we made entrelac hats, and I chose to knit mine with black and red yarns -- and everyone in the class teased me about knitting a checkerboard....

While I was laughing at myself about this, Beth Brown-Reinsel commented about how we are drawn to the same colors, over and over, and gently pointed out that the woman sitting across from me was wearing a purple-and-green shirt, and the yarns she was knitting her tam with were, of course!, dark purple, light purple, dark green, and light green. (That woman's tam turned out very subtle, and very interesting to look at, by the way.)

While black with red will work well for shadow knitting and for entrelac, and might be traditional for the two-colors-only of stranded Scandinavian knitting, I'm making the effort now to remember to try other choices for knitting samples in the future. And also to remember that purple and red have disappointed me, twice now, for their lack of value contrast in Fair Isle knitting.

In parting, just wanted to share with you this photo of Roi, another Washingtonian and Two Swans customer, and her recently-completed Sophia cardigan:


Don't they both look great?!!! The sweater has a lacy yoke, lace panels down the fronts, and a ribbed body. Roi says it is the first adult-sized sweater she's made (she's been knitting lots of grandbaby clothes), and I am proud of her! The yarn is Jamieson's DK, and the pattern is from the book Simply Shetland.

Posted by Karen at 09:23 PM | Comments (1)

February 13, 2005



Got my copy of the Spring issue of Interweave Knits in Friday's mail. (Two Swans has an ad on page 114.) I laughed when I saw the main headline on the cover: "Recycle, Reuse, Reknit!" Boy, I've re-knitted a lot of things! Actually, the headline refers to a two-page article that describes how several different designers re-use materials in knitting; I found the article interesting for the exploration of seeing old things in a new light -- and would have enjoyed it even more had it been longer. Always love to read and see examples of the creative process.

I've been working on my Elfin sleeves. Originally I meant to work a few rows on one sleeve, then work a few on the other, and finish up both sleeves at the same time. However, when putting this into practice meant working 8 or 10 rows on one sleeve, then putting it down to work 8 or 10 rows on the other sleeve -- I became irritated by the interruption of an otherwise lovely flow of knitting. So I very quickly gave up on that method and settled into working on the first sleeve by itself. As you can see from the picture, I am ready to start the cap shaping. And to think, just yesterday morning, this sleeve was only about an inch tall....

I was on the subject of procrastination in my last blog entry. Another thing I'd been procrastinating on recently was checking what homework I might have for the classes I'll be taking at the Madrona Fiber Arts retreat in Gig Harbor. Some years I've had to knit quite sizeable swatches, or hunt down knitting needles in very particular lengths and girths -- all of which takes advance planning. Finally, this weekend, I decided I had better check the homework before I'd run out of time to prepare. And joy of joys! Beth Brown-Reinsel has assigned: no homework! And I already have on hand the various needles and yarns that I will need to bring to her classes -- not to mention her excellent book, Knitting Ganseys.

Posted by Karen at 05:52 PM | Comments (2)

February 09, 2005


Elfin: What has renewed my interest in the Elfin cardigan? A couple of things, really.

First, one of the most fun parts of my recent visit with Anne in Portland was that I got to try on a bunch of sweaters that she's made, including Audrey, Beth, and her Elfin. Anne made the turtleneck version that is knitted completely from Kidsilk Haze, two strands held together. Since Rowan puts out a fair number of these patterns that call for doubling Kidsilk Haze, I have wondered whether the finished garment ends up see-through. After trying on Anne's Elfin, I can report that the finished fabric has enough density that it is not see-through at all -- it is also incredbly soft. Anne's Elfin looked exactly like the picture on the back cover of Rowan 34 -- right down to the bell sleeves. Kim Hargreaves has created a charming, charming design.

And then, every once in awhile, it pays to procrastinate. Last year, you may recall, I was shopping high and low to find a laceweight mohair -- or any mohair -- that would match the color of the Treacle Felted Tweed I am using in my Elfin cardi. For most of the Rowan yarns, a color is repeated in more than one of the lines of yarn -- so that, for example, Crushed Velvet Kd Classic matches Liqueur Kidsilk Haze matches Conker Felted Tweed, etc., etc. But a year ago, the Kidsilk Haze that matches Treacle Felted Tweed did not exist. In fact, last April I showed you this photo, of the closest thing I could find, a Jo Sharp worsted weight mohair, and I asked you to imagine a collar knitted from it:

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While I've been procrastinating in the intervening months since that photo, the Rowan people, in their wisdom, have produced Villain, the Kidsilk Haze shade that corresponds to Treacle Felted Tweed. Don't'cha love it when situations get better rather than worse when you procrastinate!

I love Elfin for all its ruffly femininity. It reminds me so much of blouses I used to wear when I was a little girl. But Felina Schwarz has several times reminded me that one can have too much of a good thing. Felina is a consummate web surfer, and has pointed me to many photos on various blogs that show Elfin ruffles that are . . . how to put this politely . . . ? Let's just say that I want to be able to wear my ruffled Elfin cardi and still be taken seriously.

So I've started my Elfin sleeves, and am cutting back on the number of stitches in my ruffles. I'm taking a cue from Becky, my blog hostess, who used only one row of ruffles at the edges of her Elfin cardi sleeves. I also am changing the bell sleeve to a fitted one, which I will be more comfortable in. I'm starting the ruffle on a size 5 needle, as the pattern directs, then, at the decrease, switching down to a size 3, and keeping with that while working a 2x1 rib at the wrist (same ribbing as at the waistband).

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Hugs and Kisses Socks: Over the weekend, I got my pattern for the charity knit-along, being co-led by Marti. I plan to knit up a pair of these socks and then donate them to the Dulaan Project, being co-led by Ryan.

I would use the proverb of "killing two birds with one stone," here, but -- since, my yarn store is Two Swans, I am not sure that the proverb uses the kind of imagery I want to promote!

Last year I participated in two knit-alongs at once. I was knitting along in the UFO-along on the Knitted Lace list, and my UFO was the Bronte scarf, which I was using to participate in the Heirloom Knitting group's knit-along for Sharon Miller patterns. That was a satisfying experience, and made me resolve to always find knitting projects that could serve double-duty in at least two knit-alongs at once. I finished the scarf, too, by the way, last October (check the archives of this blog for October 6's entry to see photos of it).

Bragging rights: Scott got his picture in the paper today.

Posted by Karen at 11:34 AM | Comments (3)

February 04, 2005


I learned an excellent, no-wrap short-row technique from Susanna Hansson at the Gig Harbor retreat in 2001. I have used this technique ever since for shoulder shaping, and I always get out and follow my notes from Susanna's class. (I don't get as far as shoulder shaping often enough to have memorized the technique. I must resolve to finish more sweaters, thereby gaining more practice so that I will get this technique memorized.) Susanna is teaching again at Gig Harbor this year, and I highly recommend her classes.

So yesterday I finished the short-row shoulder shaping on the Elfin sweater. This morning I performed a three-needle bind-off and joined the front of the cardi to the back. (I knitted this sweater in one piece to avoid having to seam.) I've been wearing the half-finished sweater around the house all morning, like a vest. It fits perfectly, but you'll have to take my word for it. I tried to get a photo of it to show you, but came to this realization: Bloggers shouldn't indulge in self-portraiture with their digital cameras. Unless Lady or Mugsy get adept with the shutter, I'll have to wait to get a photo of me modeling until I can get someone else behind the camera.

Meanwhile, I know you'd like to see a picture of a finished hand-knitted garment. Take a peek at this, created by Tanya, a customer of Two Swans Yarns. Tanya designed this vest for her husband, using Jamieson's DK in the color Clyde Blue. And Tanya must be a fast knitter, as I shipped this yarn to her only a couple of weeks ago!

This afternoon I am meeting along with the group of Master Knitter Wannabes from Seattle Knitters Guild. This time, I can say in all honesty that I have touched my Master Knitter materials since the last time we met -- I packed up all the stuff and took it to Oregon with me when I went to visit Anne two weeks ago, remember? I'm psyched. Just gotta get those needles clickin'.... I resolve to get this program finished this year.

This year's Gig Harbor retreat is coming right up. I'll be taking all of Beth Brown-Reinsel's classes -- and I hope to see a few of my Dear Readers there at the retreat.

Posted by Karen at 11:56 AM

February 02, 2005


It's that time of the month again when I am in the throes of preparing the Seattle Knitters Guild newsletter. I become so focused on and ultimately consumed by this task that I am not a very interesting conversationalist. I hope to have a fascinating blog entry tomorrow, replete with photos.

In the meantime, let me mention that the community of knitters is a generous one. My heartfelt admiration goes out to fellow Guild members and friends Marti and Ryan, two knitters who are very involved in charity knitting. Marti not only participates in the local Knit for Life, she's also co-leading a Knit-along that will benefit victims of the tsunami in southeast Asia. And Ryan is working on the Dulaan Project, to aid homeless children in Mongolia. I hope to participate in both of these causes . . . once I can push my way through these newsletter pages to an opening for air . . . .

Posted by Karen at 05:43 PM