Ahhh! Summer!

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Grilled Salmon w/ Mango Salsa

We’ve sure earned it this year! What a beautiful pay-back summer it has been thus far. This past weekend was Canada Day, our version of the 4th of July, stretched a little further because it fell on a Tuesday. It’s been an extra long weekend with lots of lovely visitors to our little island. Carl did most of the cooking including the extra pretty and delicious grilled salmon with mango salsa (above), which made the weekend much, much better for me ;)

Purlin' J's Roving Yarn Co.

To kick it off, we took a little tootle to Kingston where I was lucky enough to find, quite by accident, the enchanting Purlin’ J and her incredible Roving Yarn Truck. It’s an amazing idea and Joan has carried it out with such style! I love the chalkboard graphics that form the backbone of Purlin’ J’s super appealing visual identity. She backs it up with some stellar yarns, too. Although we were there before the truck was officially open, I managed to score a gorgeous hand dyed skein of Anywyn Studio merino sock yarn in the most dulcet shade of robin’s egg blue. Anwyn Studio is a venture launched in November 2013 by Meriel Taylor, a talented spinner and dyer. It’s an open studio where one can experiment and learn about the fibre arts. They also offer all kinds of interesting classes. I think I’ll go visit this week!

We hopped on the Glenora Ferry which carried us from nearly-Kingston to nearly-Picton. I hadn’t realized what a great resource the ferry is. It is so quick and so scenic…I may never take the 401 again! Kind of fun playing the tourist in your own town.

While Mumsie was with us, we had an opportunity to discover one of The County’s new wineries. Three Dog Winery, though they’ve been involved in viticulture for a number of years, has just this summer opened their tasting bar and wine outlet. It is small, unpretentious and feels like you’re visiting neighbors for cocktails on the deck. I can highly recommend the Rosé, having schwaffed back a couple of bottles ;)

Betwixt times, I’ve been knitting, knitting, knitting and writing patterns, none of which can be revealed. I’ve been hearing many knitters say they’re knitting indoors in the A/C or near a fan, but not I! I’ve been knitting outside in my “summer office” where I shall remain until it snows.

Summer Office

Herringbone

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Herringbone Stitch

I’ve got a couple of handbag patterns on my desk that I’ve been wanting to write, one in Quince & Co. “Sparrow” and one in Rowan Handknit Cotton. I love herringbone for bags because it is strong, pretty and has very little stretch. I also love the woven look that herringbone produces.

Jones & Vandermeer HerringboneA little research revealed that there are many variations of this hardworking little stitch! I am especially taken with the two-color variations; the contrast really highlights the classic woven texture.

AstridKnits Herringbone

Here’s a narrower version I really like. This is the extremely popular cowl pattern from Purlbee,

Purlbee Herringbone Cowl

but I’m very taken with this stitch when it’s worked in a more open manner in a yarn with some halo.

Room on the Left HerringboneHerringbone LinenI’m working a herringbone linen stitch which shall shortly be a tote bag. I’ll be adding some brown leather straps conveniently punched with sewing holes. I’m enjoying the Rowan Handknit Cotton. It is tightly spun yet soft with a very firm tubular quality…like knitting with spaghetti. And it comes in the most unabashed color range!

Rowan Handknit CottonThis plus a planned trip to the brand new Three Dog Winery should make for a very nice weekend! Happy Friday, y’all!

Sock Camp

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Sock Camp 2014

Hurray for Sock Camp! There will be a Sock Camp at Rosehaven in August, exact date to be confirmed, just in time for fall knitting. Sock knitting seems to be something everyone wants to learn. We’ll be using the new worsted weight Fortissima Mexiko 8-ply sock yarns; they knit up so quickly in great, bright colors. With larger stitches, sock shaping techniques should be much easier to see and understand, and it’s so much less daunting than the traditional fingering weight sock yarn. It’ll be a full day camp making it achievable for folks who are coming from nearby towns. Picton is such a beautiful little town to visit in the summer; there are lots of little cafes, coffee shops and boutiques. I think it’s going to be fun!

While we’re at CreativFestival Fall 2014, I’m going to be doing a workshop about Two-at-a-Time Top-Down Socks. SO fast, no second sock syndrome,Little Socks fun and DONE. That’s how we’ll be knitting at Sock Camp…two-at-a-time on two circular needles. I made these little guys in a morning and had enough yarn left over for a little matching cap :)

North Pole Socks

I’ve been experimenting with Regia’s North Pole sock yarn too. This is a DK weight self-patterning sock yarn with a slightly felted feel. Though I’m a little ‘over’ the self-patterning thing, this is a truly lovely yarn to work. It’s soft, very lofty and works up in a wink. I’ll never forget the cold feet of this past winter so I think I’ll be whipping up several pair of these! That having been said, I’m really craving some sock solids. I want to work on some color work ideas I have. I’ve long wondered about KnitPicks Stroll solids…anybody tried ‘em?

A New Pattern!

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Two-Tone Tea Cozy

Tea CozyI’ve finally managed to make my Two-Tone Tea Cozy pattern available on Ravelry! It is also available in printed form at Rosehaven. I’ve made many, many of these in stripes, polka dots and solids. We’ve used this pattern in our Knitting in the Round class at the shop with great results. It’s a fun, quick knit that adapts readily to just about any quirky color combination, motif or embellishment you’d like to try. Lesley is making one that looks right out of Dr. Seuss! It’s also super portable so it makes a great summer knitting project. Now that I’ve figured it out, I’ll get busy with some others.

Dizzy Drivers for Dad

Dizzy Drivers 2Got something for Pops? I get a big kick out of retro golf club covers…I don’t know why. Judging by the lack of response to a planned workshop about these and Carls less-than-enthusiastic “meh”, I think I’m the only one who loves them. Nevertheless, I made five! I think they look kind of cute and colorful in the shop window and I had a great time playing with some simple stranded motifs. We’ll see if they tickle anyone’s sense of imagination…we still have 4 days ’til Father’s Day.

Lots & Lots of Little Things

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Sheep in the County

Been busy ’round here! Guess that’s why I haven’t popped in for a while. Due to the sad, neglected state of my Ravelry page, I’ve been spending lots of time working out some of the many patterns-in-progress that have accumulated on my desk. I keep saying I’ll write them, then I become distracted. I’ve thought of a term for it though…”procastonation”: procrastinating one project by casting on another. I’m trying to write and print some small and easy “summer travel” style knitting patterns. You know…quick hats, socks with the new DK and worsted weight sock yarn…that sort of thing. Predictably, folks want portable knitting projects with nearly instant gratification at this time of year. That’s not to say I don’t still have at least three half-written sweater patterns mid-way down the pile.

Simple Simon

Classes are in full swing, although I haven’t had a ton of sign-ups <sigh>…it’s a tough sell in the summer time. (I’ve gone for quality over quantity ;) It gives me no end of satisfaction when our knitters complete their projects. Inevitably, they’re amazed that they’ve actually managed to do it! It’s a thrill to see people discover something new in themselves. Juliet and Anne are both super-functioning, highly intelligent people. Both have achieved really great success in real life but they are genuinely puffed up with the excitement of knitting. Kinda nice!

Two-at-a-Time SocksHaving said that, it takes a lot of time to prepare a class; writing, planning, knitting samples, practicing and timing. I’m in the throes of preparing my two-at-a-time, top-down sock class for Creativ Fall 2014. It’s a big show with a big 30-person classroom so I’m hoping there will be lots of eager sock knitters out there.

Though the label “Gardener” will never appear next to my name in this life, something has actually bloomed in my garden. Shocking. This is the Bleeding Heart given to us by Mumsie about three years ago. This is the first time it has bloomed. That should tell you something about my gardening prowess.

Bleeding HeartApart from that…I haven’t touched my oven in weeks. ‘Tis the barbeque season, which may account for the potato salad ring around my middle. That’s all the news that’s fit to print :)

Diagon Alley

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Bias Binding from Twenga

A fixation with WYS Blueface Leicester took hold of me the other day. I know, I know…I’m supposed to be obsessed with cotton, linen and silk these days and I suppose I am. But I came upon a skein of this remarkable yarn while going through my stash looking for, well, cotton, linen and silk. Anyway, it got me thinking about a design I’ve had in my mind for quite some time and that, in turn, got me looking into knitting on the bias.

Colorblock Bias BlanketThough I’ve been a life-long lover of bias cuts in sewing, bias knitting has never held any particular fascination for me. However, when given more than a cursory glance, I begin to realize what a wealth of possibility it holds. Take, for example, the marvelously simple yarn showcase that is Purlbee’s Colorblock Bias Blanket. (After many happy days spent knitting my Sochi Cowl, you’d think I’d have had it up to here with garter stitch…but no!) This pattern is a great entrè into the mechanics of bias knitting. As soon as I find a yarn that inspires me, I shall knit it to death.Leftie by Martina Behm

But that’s not all. I guess I’ve been using bias knitting more than I knew. It’s the principal in use when we knit center-spine shawls and patterns where a central double decrease is flanked by single increases. Voila! Bias knitting. Martina Behm is kind of a reigning queen of bias knitting, for me anyway. Her Leftie shawl has long been an object of my admiration.

Sawtooth Edge Scarf by Susan MillsSawtooth edging is also achieved by knitting diagonally. This bright scarf by Susan Mills reminds me of Mardi Gras ;) For this skirt by Kira Dulaney, the edging is knitted separately and sewn on.Sawtooth Skirt by Kira Dulaney

These crazy-clever Concentric Socks take the cake, though. Carissa Browning has used bias techniques in combination with some genius shaping resulting in something really innovative. 

Concentric Socks by Carissa Browning

I really love the way the cables in this gorgeous Sideways Shawl by Leslie Weber stand off from the bias-knit garter stitch background. I could see this being a throw for those chilly evenings in our little stone church. 

Sideways Shawl by Leslie Weber

April Showers

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April Showers

I love rainy days, especially when I don’t have to leave the house. I like to think about how green the grass is getting; I use the ‘green’ image to forget the ‘white’ image that’s lodged in my post eternal-winter brain. Today is one of those lovely rainy days. I’m pulling out some works in progress and admiring them, patting myself on the back (or kicking myself in the a** depending on the project), and dreaming about what I’d like to do next. Today is not a day for pressure-knitting.

Noro/Kauni Cardigan

I’m delighted with my Kauni Cardigan. I use the word “Kauni” very loosely…it is the name of the yarn used in the pattern; since I’ve used Noro Taiyo Sock, I don’t feel terribly entitled to use the moniker. I love the shape and the method. It seems the older I get, the more I admire simple shapes. This is not to say that I don’t love me some complex shaping, however. I can’t believe how fast this has gone! I’ve got about 6 rows to knit before I steek and start the sleeves. Since the yarn is a cotton/wool/silk blend, I think it’s something I’ll wear a lot this summer (only a displaced Southerner would think about ‘summer sweaters’ :D) The Noro color-changes are not as predictable as those of Kauni, so I’ve had to selectively intervene a little.  I’d like to do another cardi like this one using my own motifs and perhaps a loftier yarn in warm colors.

Boboli Elder TreeEarlier in the spring, we got a nifty new yarn in the shop. It’s a Berroco…Boboli Lace. Though it’s not strictly a lace yarn, its single-ply silky, shimmery, fluffiness makes it kind of responsive to lace knitting techniques. It comes in some pretty magnificent colors, so I’ve been eyeballing it. I finally grabbed a skein in Fondant to knit a sample for the shop. I thought a casual, simple lace motif would be best so I’ve chosen Sylvia Bo Bilvia’s Elder Tree Shawl. The pattern called for a worsted so my motifs are a little smaller, but overall I’m very pleased. If I could find the perfect multi-colored beads, I’d bead the lower edge.

Golf Club CoversMy golf club covers (which should have been finished long ago) are still on the needles. Partly, this is due to indecision. Partly, I’m saving them for car-knitting. Mumsie is in hospital an hour from our place. They’ll be adorable once they’re done.

Now for the dreaming :) I couldn’t resist this dreamy aqua lace-weight Pima-Lino. I’m going to do “Longing for Robin’s Return” which has been on my Ravelry queue for about a year. Y’know…I might just light a fire, make some tea, and cast it on this afternoon!

A Love/Hate Relationship

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Noro/Kauni

I think everyone knows that I have a love/hate relationship with Noro. I have expounded vociferously about Noro on a number of occasions. Yet…

IMG_4055-001It started again when our stock of Noro sock yarn went on sale. Between my employee discount and the discounted shelf price, I simply could not help myself. I was powerless against the deep, saturated and enigmatic color of Noro. So, I picked up enough for the Kauni Cardigan I’ve been wanting to make. This pattern is intriguing. I’ve always wanted to try working two skeins of effect yarn against each other. I’d looked at Regia Effect (among others), but was not smitten with the colorways as I was with the Noro.Kauni

In the past, I’d worked with the worsted weight Noro Taiyo and was frustrated by the weaker, under-spun areas. It kept shattering. I kept swearing. And I feared that the Taiyo Sock would be the same. Not so! I don’t know if it’s the addition of nylon (although, now that I look, I find that the worsted weight contains nylon as well) or what, but the Taiyo sock is proving to be strong and resilient, if a little demanding tension-wise. So far so good! And, it’s definitely all I hoped and dreamed of as far as color is concerned. 

Altogether, a spell-binding knit!

Knitting, Knitting, (a Little Crochet)…and more Knitting!

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Rainbow-in-a-Bucket Bag

Works in progress? Yes! Lots!

My WIP’s this week have definitely been dominated by sample-making (and pattern-writing) for our twelve (!) new classes at Rosehaven. Our spring and summer class schedule has been finalized and posted over at the Rosehaven site. Now, let’s hope for lots of folks who want to have fun learning to knit (and crochet)!

Market ToteFor the absolute beginner, how ’bout this sweet Market Tote! Though our winter Beginner’s Knitting class (where we made our Rasta Cowl) was quite successful, I wanted to make some changes for the new sessions. Along with the basics, we’ll be learning some stitch combinations like moss and basket weave and adding some useful details, like I-cord.

Picnic BlanketI’ll be teaching crochet this season, too! It’s been a while, so I’ve spent some time sharpening my tools ;) I’d forgotten how much fun, and how FAST crochet is, and how differently the yarn manifests itself! The Rainbow-in-a-Bucket Bag above is our Crochet 101 project. For our more advanced participants, we’re making a bright cotton picnic blanket. A new shipment of Rowan Handknit Cotton arrived in the shop this morning so, inspired by the new colors, I think I’ll add some pink, maybe a little soft gray and lavender. (Look at me, gettin’ all colorful! Lesley must be rubbing off on me ;) Over at Monster Yarns earlier this week, I came upon a fantastic post with 14 different techniques for joining squares! It’s definitely worth a look.

Piper's JourneyPiper’s Journey by Quince & Co. has been on my personal list for quite a while and I thought it would be perfect for our Knitting Project Level II. I’m taking a bit of a  liberty with the pattern by using Sirdar Snuggly Baby Bamboo and, since our project is meant to be a summer wrap, it’s worked perfectly. The softness of bamboo with the loft of wool makes this a lovely knit. It’s a beautifully written pattern; it’ll make a great introduction to chart knitting. 

IMG_4045I picked up some Berroco Vintage at the shop this morning which, over the weekend, shall be magically transformed into cool, retro Golf Club Covers :D Since Vintage is a hard-wearing and machine washable blend, I thought it would be a sufficiently ‘guy-proof’ yarn. Can’t wait to start them…hopefully they’ll pass the “Carl Boy-Appropriate-Color Test!

Tracey Builds a Tardis!

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The Tardis by Disent

Today’s post comes to me from guest blogger and dear friend Tracey Robinson. Tracey is a “Polymath Mom”, comprised of equal parts athlete, chef, baker, mortgage expert, knitter, crafter, sewist, decorator and organizational whiz. Tracey and family live in Toronto, where I swear she crams 48 hours into every 24. Here’s something she recently ‘whipped up’.

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Tracey's Tardis

My son, Booker just turned 10 years old. I have enjoyed making his birthday cakes over the years. Some of them have tasted better than they looked. There was the one that fell completely apart coming out of the pan, and I had to use extra icing in an attempt to hide its internal injuries. Others looked better than they tasted. The famous “pancake-cake” I created for his Maple Syrup Festival themed Birthday party… That little bit of genius was made from 7 enormous pancakes stacked up, glued together with butter cream icing, drizzled with a vaguely-maple-flavoured brown gelatin set to look like syrup, and topped with a single butter pat (a lemon-flavoured Starburst Fruit Chews candy). It was beautiful…and horrible. Yuck. 

This year, I wanted to make a special cake inspired by his latest obsession: Doctor Who. 

Cubee___TARDIS_by_CyberDrone

Want to make your own Tardis?

To clarify, we are not talking about the Dr. Who of the 70’s with the frizzy hair and the ultra-long scarf, here. This would be the newer BBC version. I never really got into the old Dr. Who, myself. As a kid, I think the music freaked me out a little… still does. Anyway, if you know anything about Dr Who (new or old) you are probably aware that his time machine, “The Tardis” is a London Police phone box. 

I have never before attempted a fondant cake, so taking my usual, incredibly naive, oh-how-hard-can-it-be? approach, I decided to give it a try… 

Now, I’m going to come clean right off the bat. The cake itself was a cake mix. *gasp* I know. How horrible, right? What an absolute fraud. Yes. Yes, I am. My only defence against this unforgiveable shortcut is this: I had one shot at this thing, and I simply could not afford any cake mishaps (see above). There. I’ve said it. Duncan Hines. Can that be the end of that, now? 

Since I was not brave (or foolish) enough to attempt an “upright” phone box, I decided to make it lying down which just makes more sense, anyway. How would one even begin to cut an upright phone box cake? 

I started with a 9×13” white cake, which I trimmed of its silly rounded corners and leveled with a cake leveler. If you do not own a cake leveler, you absolutely MUST get one. It’s my favorite thing. There is just no excuse for a “humpy” cake, in my opinion. I cut my leveled cake cross-wise into 3 equal pieces which, once stacked on top of one another, became the perfect shape. I used butter cream icing (mixed with a near toxic amount of blue food coloring) for in between the cake layers. Next up: The fondant. I rolled out the blue fondant and managed to lay it over the entire cake, shaping it carefully around the corners and smoothing it along the way. It is quite forgiving and is a lot like working with Play-Doh. I don’t care how old you get- Play-Doh is just plain fun. Using white fondant squares for the windows and strips of blue fondant for the door and window trims (cut with a pastry cutting wheel) I slowly managed to pieced it together using a little water to adhere everything. 

Finally, I sculpted an angel out of white fondant using the bottom of a waffle ice cream cone as a base (for the angel reference, you’ll have to watch Dr. Who. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to). Lastly, The Tardis would naturally see a little wear and tear travelling through space and time, so I used a small craft brush and some black decorator’s gel to add some scuff marks and “age” it a little. 

One thing that I hadn’t considered, was what blue fondant and blue food colouring would do to my hands…I thought that I would have “Smurf-blue” hands for several days, but after some extensive internet research, I found the answer: A paste of baking soda with a few drips of hydrogen peroxide scrubbed into the stains will remove all of the colour! It may leave a white “haze” on the skin, which can be removed with the gentle rub of a nail brush. This little tidbit of information was worth all the effort. 

Well, almost. 

The Tardis was a big hit, judging by the blue-lipped smiles. Oh, and the cake itself? Delicious. Thank-you, Mr. Hines. 

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As a post-script….

A police box similar to that made famous in the television series Doctor Who has opened to the public.

 

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