Celtic Sources

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Celtic Knot by Pixabay

The Pattern That Will Not BeI’ve been working on the Pattern-That-Just-Won’t-Be for what seems an eternity. It’s a cabled hat and glove set. I’ve been twisting, untwisting, reversing, resizing and otherwise manipulating the cable pattern; it’s amusing. Sort of.  Today, when I looked at it after an evening of shape-shifting, it hit me how very Celtic a lot of cable patterns are. Enigmatic and magically twisty, celtic cables make toothsome fodder for the knitter. 

Take for example, this clever knitter. Devorgilla has been exploring the translation of Celtic knots to knitting since about 2010 (on Ravelry, anyhow). It seems she had afghan squares in mind when she created these enticing knotted blocks, but I think they’d lend themselves to many projects.

There are a number of publications, clip art and online sources where Celtic motifs can be found. This one “Celtic Charted Designs” by good ol’ Dover, are gridded and ready to be transposed into stranded colorwork, intarsia or cables. It can be downloaded as an e-book in both the US and Canada for about 5 clams.

Celtic Charted Designs

“Celtic Knotwork Designs” by Sheila Sturrock contains some great information about early motifs and some simple processes for plotting motifs onto graph paper; I’m sure this could just as easily be accomplished in any knitting chart software.

Celtic Knotwork Designs by Sheila Sturrock

Here’s an interesting idea! Clanbadge.com has created a font through which Celtic knots and borders can be composed using a restricted area of your keyboard. $20 includes 76 editable designs and the potential for many more, plus a free Celtic lettering font. It works for PC or Mac.

Aon-Celtic.com (above) offers a wide range of freeware that includes many, many motifs, borders, buttons and flags as well as some charted designs. They too offer a free lettering font.

I doubt these will help the Pattern-That-Just-Won’t-Be, but I can certainly see them in a pair of leg warmers I’ve been meaning to knit!

 

 

 

 

 

Join The Club

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Skein Yarn of Australia

Lately, I’ve been a little fascinated by the yarn clubs I keep hearing about. I thought I’d take a cruise around the internet and take a look at a couple of them:

YarnBoxYarnBox: This is interesting! There are three plus subscription levels and several single-month options. For $35.95/month for six months, you can treat yourself to two full-size skeins of luxury yarn, 2 patterns, pattern coupons and designer profiles. $39.95 gets you a single month subscription, which is great for those who’d like to try it out before making a 3 or 6 month commitment. Other single-use options include the “Luxe” package at $69.95 which includes handcrafted extras, and the “Sock” package (a great value at $19.95), which includes one or two hand-dyed skeins of sock yarn. There are some really attractive gift subscriptions as well and I like that the yarns are not brand-specific. The only drawback here is that there are no examples of past boxes to peruse and no mention of which yarn companies might be participating. A girl would just have to throw caution to the wind and order the $39.95 one-off.

Yarn Club.netYarnClub.net: Oooh! Look at this pretty little “Awesome Box”, a cute crate that comes packed with goodies. YarnClub partners with artisans all over the US with the mission of delivering unique yarns along with handmade knitting tools and accessories. What a great idea! The boxes are available for purchase one at a time rather than by subscription which means there is no commitment and no upfront fees. The boxes, themed according to season, range between $85 – $100. The website is rich with examples of past boxes and videos detailing the contents of current boxes, such as the Winter Wonderland box featured in December. It included two luxury skeins by Yarn Circus and some really top-notch swag like a laser-etched needle gauge in the shape of a snowflake, Lavishea lotion bars and handmade stitch markers pretty enough to be jewelry. And 1 in every 100 boxes contains a special bonus gift, in this case, a hand-wrought silver tapestry needle by Celtic Swan Forge. What a gorgeous gift idea!

Rockin Sock ClubBlue Moon Fibre Arts Rockin’ Sock Club: This was one of the first sock yarn clubs with some very loyal devotees. For $297 paid up front, you’ll get delivered to your door every other month: a sock length (about 405 yards) of Socks That Rock light weight or medium weight in a unique, exclusive colorway, 2 fancy-schmancy designer sock patterns, Notorious Sock Knitter mini-skeins (doesn’t say how many or what size), stitch markers, buttons and an NSK bumper sticker AND a 15% off coupon. You can save a few clams by choosing the ‘PDF only’ rather than the print option. This is not a bad deal considering I paid close to $40CDN for a skein of STR last summer, but the jewel in the crown is design. Tina Newton and her team have a great eye for edgy, up-and-coming designers while pulling the best and freshest from their stable of the tried-and-true. 

Year in Colour ClubTanis Fibre Arts Year in Colour Club: This is my favorite of the brand-specific packages, partly because I love Tanis yarns and partly because the terms are so perfectly clear. $235 (CDN!) gets you a custom dyed skein with a pattern to match every 2 months and includes shipping. Additional skeins in the club colorways are available for Club members, but are not available to the general public for 1 calendar year. The custom skeins come in a variety of weights, so members can expect to receive anything between a lace weight and an aran. Past packages are documented on the website so one knows just how wonderful they are. Nice.

Kick Ass Knitters/World Domination Yarn Club by IndigodragonflyIndigodragonfly: Hmmm….This is a cool set-up: A basic membership plan with optional add-ons like extra skeins, mystery skeins and swag. The Basic includes one or two luxury skeins in an exclusive Club colorway, 2 patterns per package and a project bag. That’ll set you back $390 for 6 months, $195 for 3, (in color-c0ded Canadian dollars) if you’re in Ontario. For International and other provinces, add a little. Yarn add-ons start at $110 and swag extras are $60. This year, the focus will be on sock and DK weight yarns. I’ve never used this yarn before, but the colors look delicious and I’m tempted to try a skein.

I can’t say the Club idea is for me, though it would be lovely to receive a little surprise in the mail now and then. I think it’s perfect for those who are looking to shake things up and break old routines. And some of the gift ideas are just scrumptious…hmmmm!

Back At It

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Mardi Gras 1

It’s fun to go on vacation, but it’s soooo nice to get back home! Even with two feet of snow and sub-zero temperatures, I love coming home to my fellas, my own bed and the quiet of the country.

Mardi Gras was just as frantic, giggly, sparkly and fabulous as ever. This year, the Krewe of WooHoo made it into the Denver Post as we fired confetti at the corner of Burgundy and Esplanade, right in front of Buffa’s Bar & Grill. That’s Miss Laura you see firing the cannon. She gets a big charge out of it :) I’m the one in pink with the fur trim :D

Denver Post

More sewingI’ve brought a big stack of glittering Mardi Gras fabrics back home to sew, along with an ecclesiastical garment, a Cardinal, to be finished in time for the Sterling Renaissance Faire this spring. When the big sewing machine comes out in March, I shall be sewing some sumptuous, full-circle capes, along with some new knitting bags I have in the works.

Solfar SocksIn the meantime, I’m happy to devote my time to knitting! Good intentions aside, I have not yet finished Laura’s Solfar Socks by Cookie A, though I’m nearly there! Just the foot of the second sock remains. She saw the yarn and stitch pattern when I was in New Orleans and I think she liked them! She’ll be happy to have them; she gets grumpy when her feet are cold.

The “Diana” hat and gloves I’ve had on my work table since before Christmas is almost ready to be released as a pattern. I have a few finger issues to sort out on the gloves, but the charts are all done and the instructions for the hat are finished. I’m knitting the hat again from the written pattern incorporating some changes I made after wearing the hat for a while. I love this hat! Though the ‘Glacier’ color is a favorite of mine, I’m really enjoying the warm, bright ‘Goldfinch’ yellow I’ve chosen for the second one. It’s a touch of sunshine during these last gloomy days of winter.

Acorns 1 by Carol SundayMy ‘Acorns’ sweater is proceeding apace. I’ve finished the yoke, separated the sleeves and am now working my way down the body. I’m not enjoying this pattern…don’t quite know why. It’ll be lovely to wear, however, and I just can’t have too many cardigans at this time of year!

Mardi Gras Missive #2: The Muses

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IMG_5362

Things are heating up! There are parades every night, some enormous and well-executed, some impromptu. Excitement is in the air, there is music on every breeze and everything sparkles and lights up. It’s hard to pace oneself and “pick your battles” but a smart girl does if she hopes to have enough stamina to make it through Fat Tuesday.

Muses Shoe #1

Muses Shoe #3

Muses Shoe #2

My very favorite parade, largely because of their fabulous throws, is the Krewe of Muses which always rolls on the Thursday before Mardi Gras. This is an all-girl Krewe founded in 2001 whose claim to fame is the throwing of gorgeously decorated (and highly coveted) high heeled shoes. Over the years, they’ve added many clever throws like the sought-after shoe bracelet that comes in a different color every year. There is always much excitement and anticipation as to the bracelet’s color which is kept secret until the first one is thrown. I have them dating back to about 2004 in a rainbow of shades. This year’s is blue.

Muses Bracelet 2015

To the people of New Orleans, they are street names, often mispronounced. In Greek mythology the nine Muses were the daughters of Zeus. First parading in 2001, the Muses organization now has over 1000 riding members and was the first all-female organization to parade at night in Uptown New Orleans. The Krewe of Muses’ vision is to tap into and recognize the local artistic and cultural resources of the community and incorporate them into a Muses Mardi Gras tradition, making the entire community a part of the Krewe of Muses parade. We celebrate their wildness before they were tamed, their virtues after they were appointed, and their place in the mystique of New Orleans, where each virtue seems to thrive

Miss Laura managed to catch not one but two shoes this year!

As you can imagine, not much knitting is taking place; we’re busy sewing. My costume is finally finished. I am “Baked Alaska” in keeping with this year’s theme “The Krewe of WooHoo Gets Its Just Desserts”. This is as much as I can show until the big day :)

Baked Alaska

See you after the dust settles!

Mardi Gras Missive #1

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Throw Me Somethin'!

Here I am! It’s Mardi Gras! 

Having a wonderful time…wish you were here :D

I wish I had a scintillating post for your reading pleasure today, but sadly, I do not. I confess, I may have over-imbibed last night at the first big parade of the season. I’m not quite myself this morning. 

Today will consist of sewing, sewing, sewing… and another parade. More later.

Short Row Sunday

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Acorns 1 by Carol Sunday

On Saturday evening, to ease the depression of being back in the cold (and losing Carl to his job a full 2 days early), I cast on Carol Sunday’s Acorns. This is a gorgeous top-down, seamless yoke design made all the merrier by the addition of some pretty clever short rows worked into the acorn stitch pattern. I admire the way Carol has managed to use the short rows to lengthen the ‘acorns’ as they move across the back of the yoke. I think this is a lovely way to manipulate the scale of the acorn motifs while adding to the depth of the yoke where extra depth is required. This and a provisional cast-on allow for a very clean neck edge which will eventually be picked up for the pretty neck edging.

Acorns 2  by Carol Sunday

Couple things, though…

First, I’ve never had much luck with the crochet-and-pick-up-the-bumps provisional cast-on. I get it, it just feels awkward and picky. I prefer to knit a few rows with waste yarn in a contrasting color, then begin with my project yarn (a la Eunny Jang). When I’m ready to pick up my live stitches again, I’ll simply snip away the waste yarn. I like this method because I’ve found it makes for more consistent tension on the first row.

Second, the short row strategy prescribed in the pattern is not my favorite. Ysolda has a great tutorial for this method, which is basically a Japanese short row, but frankly I find it laborious…all that fiddling with bits of waste yarn and safety pins. I much prefer the shadow wrap or twin stitch method. Alice Yu over at Socktopus Unplugged claims to have ‘unvented’ it, but I’ve seen it kicking around for years. She has a very clear tutorial on her blog. It is the method I prefer to use when working a short row sock heel and the method I teach in my Sock Camp workshop. It is very simple, requires no wrapping and no counting because the shadow-wrapped stitches are easy to spot, and produces a virtually imperceptible turn even in the midst of a field of stockinette. I’ve substituted this system for Carol’s and feel like I’ve gotten off easy :)

The simpler the better where short rows are concerned, say I. When working in garter stitch, I love the elegant SWR (Slip, Wrap, Replace) technique I’ve been finding in Elizabeth’s patterns. This method is invisible, with the turns hidden in the garter stitch bumps, and there is no cumbersome resolve on the way back. See how the short rows blend in to the gentle drape of the shawl collar? Love it!

Zora by Elizabeth McCarten

 

Shocking. Just. Shocking.

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Grand Anse Beach

Home. With classic “Cheryl” timing, my homecoming coincides with a most dreadful winter storm. I’d love to show you a photo to juxtapose with the above, just for the shock value, but I refuse to go outdoors to take one. You’ll just have to trust me. I shan’t be leaving the house today. I had two doctor’s appointments scheduled for today, one of which was cancelled by the doctor, the other by me. I did go out to start the car (just in case) and take the first crack at the snow drifting over the walk but that’s it. That’s positively it.

Grenada was incredible. Beyond the beaches, warm water and sunshine, the gracious people, and their simple style of life, are amazing. I admire their lack of acquisitiveness, lack of wastefulness and appreciation of humble things. Though I can’t bring home the soft salty air, I can keep a new perspective about what’s important in life. I hope we’ll go back again and again.

Solfar by Cookie ADespite all the swimming, boating, hiking and beach combing, I managed to finish the first Solfar Sock by Cookie A. It’s a lovely, poetic lace pattern, beautifully written and charted but, to be honest, I’ll stick with my short row heel anytime. I remember now why I favor it over the classic ‘flap-and-gusset’, for style, fit and sleekness as much as for speed. I managed to get the second sock cast on and was 20-0r-so rows to the good by the time we got on the plane to come home.

As you’ll recall, I checked with the TSA about knitting needles before we left, wanting to jeopardize neither needles nor knitting at the security counter. Just in case, I tucked an extra set of Platina dp’s in my checked baggage as well as some emergency birch needles in my project bag. As promised, all was well. I happily knitted on both legs of the flight. When we tried to board in Grenada for the trip home, however, they took a slightly different, and somewhat irrational view. There are no x-ray machines for baggage on the tiny island, and the agent who was inspecting my carry-on bag took exception to my knitting. She resented the yarn as much as the needles! Long story short, she refused to allow the newly cast-on sock and needles, but allowed my project bag containing two more sets of dp’s! This would have left me with one finished sock, but no more Alegria sock yarn to finish the second. Ever the gentleman, Carl sprinted back through the airport to check in my carry-on bag. Bless him :)

So…here I sit with a ‘snow day’. Seems the perfect time to knit the shawl collar and bands on my Buttonbox vest in time to take it to New Orleans. Perhaps it’s for the best…

Selfie with Snow Bank

Three Little Hats and a Cookie

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Vintage Sock Blockers from Cottage Chic

How ’bout these vintage sock blockers ?!? I found them in a little antique store, “Cottage Chic”, on Main Street in Picton and just had to bring them home. Aren’t they charming?

Solfar by Cookie A

Rambla SurAnd speaking of socks…I’ve decided that my travel knitting shall be socks after all. I’ve never knit a Cookie A. pattern, though many of her incredible variations have appealed to me over the years. My first impulse was “Istanbul” but thought they’d best be worked in a deep, jewel colored tonal. I settled on “Solfar” because I think they’ll be lovely in my hand-painted Alegrio in ‘Rambla-Sur’. I plan to work them while we’re in the Caribbean, hoping to finish them off in New Orleans and leave them behind for Miss Laura. I hope she’ll like the color. I’d like my socks to be a little longer than those pictured. I’ve cast them on and added 20 rows to the ribbing. I’ll also knit one extra pattern repeat since the yardage of the Alegria is very generous.

(Incidentally, I did cast on the Luna Viridis in the Blue Moon Socks That Rock as originally planned, but I didn’t care for the way the colorway was playing out – too much pooling over the long-ish rows – so that pattern will have to wait for the right yarn.)

PurlBee Toppers

Since I’ve scheduled a Knitting in the Round workshop for January 31 (the day after we return), I figured I’d better finish up the samples before we leave. We’ll be using Puffin from Quince & Co. to make these sweet little hats from PurlBee. These will be great for first-time circular knitting; they’re fast and fun with simple shaping.

My Buttonbox

My beloved little “Buttonbox” is finished to the point of knitting the button bands and shawl collar. I just can’t wait to wear it! I’d planned to select the buttons on Saturday while at work in the shop, and we had several new styles that caught my eye. Then I had a brainwave! Since it’s really about a box of buttons, why not use mismatched vintage ones, like the fruits of your Grandma’s button collection? I chose these; they live in the ‘same world’ but definitely do not match. Sweet, I think!

Buttons are the only thing lacking on “Zora”. She’s blocked and dry and I love her very much! I’ll sew them on before photographing the sweater…pictures to come.

Travel Knitting

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Sea Glass Place Grand Anse

Since we’re off to Grenada on Wednesday, I thought it would be a good idea to make sure my knitting needles would be allowed on the plane. I don’t care much for flying (I’m a feet-on-the-ground kind of girl) and frankly, the thought of several hours in the air without knitting gives me palpitations. I was VERY relieved to find the following on the TSA website: <whew!>

Knitting needles are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage.

Items needed are permitted in your carry-on baggage or checked baggage with the exception of circular thread cutters or any cutter with a blade contained inside which cannot go through the checkpoint and must go in your checked baggage.

Wool of the Andes "Opal Heather"The tricky part now is choosing the right project. I know that I should be thinking about portability, so the next sweater project on my list is probably not the right thing to take, though it is tempting. I got this Wool of the Andes “Opal Heather” during KnitPicks big sale right before Christmas. I just love the color and the price was ridiculously low…who could resist? I have it in mind for “Acorns” by Carol Sunday, a pattern published in Twist Collective a couple of years back. I’ve chosen this pretty pattern because it is something sorely needed in my wardrobe, but I think it’ll be fun to knit as well. Not very practical for this trip perhaps but I could take it as travel knitting to New Orleans next month.

Acorns by Carol Sunday

Eco Andean DKI’ve had an idea in mind for a (desperately needed) pair of leg warmers with an intriguing art deco cable up the back. They’ve been sketched but not swatched. I want to use Eco Andean DK for these in a dark gray/brown color. Somehow, I can’t see myself lounging on a Caribbean beach knitting with dark gray wool so I think these will have to wait.

Blue Moon Socks That RockHere’s an option: my coveted Blue Moon Socks That Rock in the colorway “I Love What You’re Wearing”. This 100% merino sock weight has no nylon component so I hesitate to make socks from it. It would, however, work up beautifully in Luna Viridis, a pattern I’ve long admired because of its rather bizarre shaping. Challenging, no?

Luna Viridis by Hilary Smith Callis

Alegria "Rambla Sur"And one final possibility. I have a thing for Alegria sock yarn. I’ve got four different colorways in my stash, three of which I have definite plans for. (Every time Lesley brings in a new colorway, I must have it, often against my better judgement. She’ll have me in the poor house, that woman :D) Anyway,  one skein in colorway “Rambla Sur” has no particular plan. I could make lacy socks. The downside to that is that I spent Christmas week knitting socks and I’m afraid I might be socked-out. So for the moment, it looks like Luna Viridis. I’ll enjoy working these bright pretty colors in a not-too-big project as I dig my toes into the sand and it’ll be a lovely cheery thing to wear around my neck during the dark winter days ahead. I’ll let you know if things change ;)

I’m happy to report that “Zora”, over my morning coffee, has come off the needles. I so appreciate that Elizabeth recommended knitting the button bands and shawl collar prior to knitting the sleeves. Those areas are just too focal to leave to the end when one is trying to finish a project. And thank God it’s seamless. Once you’re done, you’re done! Just a few ends to weave in and she goes into the soup. Then I can add my pretty buttons (I picked these up at KnitPicks as well).  I’ll be wearing this on Wednesday in place of a bulky coat. If I can find a very light, soft cotton or silk scarf in peachy/browny shades to wear with it, I’ll be happy as a tropical clam!

Zora Buttons

 

 

A Buttonbox & A Backward Loop

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Vintage Buttons on Etsy

Buttonbox by Elizabeth McCartenOn Sunday afternoon, I cast on “Buttonbox”. I’ve never thought of myself as a vest person but I found this pattern suddenly irresistible. Despite the fact that I’d looked at it about a million times, it occurred to me that this little extra scrap of warmth would be lovely over a t-shirt in New Orleans during the ‘tween’ days of February and March when almost anything can happen weather wise. I can wear it here at home over a long-sleeved T with a pretty neckline all through winter and spring. Anyway, wanting to wear it was right up there on the priority list along side wanting to knit the oddly pretty knit-and-purl button motif.

Quince&Co Lark in "Fjord"I’ve chosen to work it in Quince & Co. ‘Lark’ in the color “Fjord”. This is one of the Quince line I hadn’t tried. It didn’t appeal to me immediately compared to the delicately plump ‘Chickadee’ and the thick, spongey ‘Osprey’. Having knit a few skeins, I find I absolutely love it.

Working through these several Elizabeth McCarten patterns has sparked my interest in the classic teachings of Elizabeth Zimmermann whose beautiful, pure, seminal ideas about knitting remain fresh, even with the many new and brilliant ideas emerging in the craft today. I’ve had “Knitting Workshop” on my shelf for a couple of years, but I find myself referring to it consistently now for her brilliant technical tidbits. For example, “Buttonbox” calls for an increase (M1) that uses the backward loop method. Of course, I’d used backward loop as a cast-on but had never thought of it as a means of increasing. What a revelation! It is simple, nearly invisible, and creates subtle directional increases that pair beautifully. Here’s a great tutorial for the backward loop increase. 

Backward Loop M1

You can see how beautifull EZ’s M1 works in this case, framing the stitch motif with gentle directional increases.

Backward Loop M1 in action

Buttonbox TextureIsn’t this a pretty and interesting texture? I love the little ‘buttons’ nestled into their boxes :) I’ve just separated to work the fronts and back. Now that I look at it, I think I’ll rip back and add a couple more pattern repeats before working the underarm decreases to account for my devilishly long waist. That oughta keep me out of mischeif!

Buttonbox

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