Hedgehog Knits

Adventures in knitting from the eastern edge of Canada.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

We've got comments!

Aha! I have managed to track down the lost comments and publish them. Whew! Look at that, people have been dropping by all this time, and I thought I was just talking to myself!

Thanks everybody, and especially thanks for your patience while I try to learn how to do this. Is there a "Blogging for Dummies" book published yet? If not, I think I would be an excellent test subject for the book's research!


Hmm. I just found out that people have been trying to post comments to my blog, but apparently I had the "moderate" option turned on, and they were unable to post. I have no idea where the messages that were "pending moderator approval" have gone - I've certainly never seen them. I just thought that nobody liked me!

Anyway, I have figured out how to disable the moderation, and should finally be open for comments. Please, feel free!

Here's a little pre-blog knitting. I knit this last spring for friends who were expecting a baby girl, and moving to Yellowknife at the same time. I just received pictures of the little girl, who evidently still has a bit of room to grow in this sweater! I've cropped the photo for the sake of privacy.

The pattern is Devan from Knitty (size 6-12 mo), which is quickly becoming one of my favorite baby patterns. I've done three of them to date. I forget what brand of self-patterning sock yarn I used for the front, but the back and button bands are Sheepjes Invicta. The great thing about sock yarn sweaters for babies is that they're machine washable and hard-wearing, yet still soft and warm. And warm is important when you live in Yellowknife! There are so many great sock colour combinations that you never really do the same sweater twice. The two earlier ones I made were shower gifts in more unisex blue and green shades.

What am I up to lately? Lots of secret Christmas knitting and fun with Kool-Aid dyeing. Photos to come soon!

Monday, November 20, 2006

A heritage project

I've been reading quite a bit lately about historical knitting patterns. Even the Yarn Harlot was talking about historical sock knitting in a recent post. I got to thinking about my own knitting heritage and wondering why I couldn't find much information about Newfoundland patterns.

Newfoundland, for those who might be unfamiliar, is the easternmost part of Canada, a large island, that together with Labrador, makes up the youngest Canadian province. We only joined Canada in 1949, and though most of the island is now fully modernized, the place was pretty isolated even in the days of my parents' childhood. I left the island in 1996 to go to university on "the mainland", and well, ten years later, I'm still in school!

My personal knitting heritage derived from my grandmother and my aunt, who taught me to knit when I was a very little girl. I'm pretty sure I was starting to knit, sitting on a little humpty beside Nan's recliner, before I was old enough to read. They were both incredibly patient with a little girl who liked to increase unintentionally by splitting a stitch, and then just knitting the second half of the stitch separately. And I knit so tight that my aunt would have to take it from me and knit a couple of loose rows just so I wouldn't injure myself trying to force the needles. I used to have two different coloured small dpn's - one green and one red - so that I could easily see which way I was going and remember to
switch hands at the end of the row. I knit many a "blanket" and skirt for my Barbies, and scarves for my Cabbage Patch Dolls. I remember my grandmother once told me that her father taught her to knit. In later years at Nan's house, I learned to do "fancy work" (embroidery) and much later, crochet. But from the beginning, I wanted to knit like most of the women in my life.

Some of you may recognize this type of thrummed mitten as a Newfoundland mitten:

When you search "Newfoundland mitten" on Google, this is what comes up. They've even been featured in Interweave Knits. (I made these last winter). Now, I don't doubt that these do originate on the island, but I definitely remember the first time that I saw them, and it wasn't until I was in high school. And I remember some older ladies in my family remarking on them - they had obviously never seen them before. So if these are truly Newfoundland mittens, I suspect they might have originated in the central or western part (I come from Conception Bay, close to St. John's.)

I've also found Maggi's pattern for Newfoundland Mitts, but I've never seen these before. Again, they might be a regional thing that I haven't come across. They're certainly not common in the St. John's region.

But this, this is what I recognize as a Newfoundland traditional mitt, or "cuff" as some of the older crowd likes to call them. The two-colour double knit is nice and warm, and the tighter it's knit the better. For a people who spend so much of their time on the water or in the woods, tight-knit, wind-proof mitts are important. I have one great aunt who is well know in my home town as a very good and fast knitter, and I remember my father commenting on how "close" (tight-knit) her mitts are. (As an aside, she was also knitting toe-up socks long before that became the thing to do.)

Now in my childhood, these mitts were always knit out of acrylic worsted - Red Heart and the like. This is probably because it was the cheapest and most easily available stuff around. I'm sure that in the old days they were
made from handspun, and I've often wondered if they would have had dark and light fleece spun to do the contrast colours, or whether light yarn would be dyed black for this purpose. Nowadays, I'm starting to see wool mitts again, especially for sale in the tourist shops. More authentic that way, I guess. The acrylic version always sold for $8 a pair at the church Fall Fair in the 1980's, although I'm sure tourists can expect to pay upwards of $20 in a gift shop now.

The pattern, or course, is as varied as the women who knit it. This black and white diamond pattern that I've shown is probably the most popular, but I've seen variations on geometric patterns, and even pictoral designs like poinsettias. And proficient knitters could copy a pattern just by borrowing a mitt and copying it as they went. My husband has a pair with a white horse head on
a dark green background, that I will photograph as soon as I can find them! I've even seen ones with puffins (the provincial bird) for sale in the tourist shop at Signal Hill National Historic Site. The colours are usually white and a dark shade, although I remember Nan making me a pair each of mint-green-and-white and lavender-and-white when I was a pre-teen, on special request. Why the one finger, you ask? Commonly known as "three-fingered mitts" or "trigger mitts", this configuration allows a person a bit more dexterity to deal with fishing gear or to pull the trigger of a shotgun while keeping three fingers together for warmth. Of course, you're just as likely to see full fingered gloves:

or, less commonly, regular mittens:

This last pair, I'm pretty sure, was knit by my Nan, probably one of the last pairs that she ever made for me. They're tattered and no longer very white, but I can't bear to part with them.

I read somewhere that this style of knitting is a blend of Scandanavian folk patterns and traditional British patterns. This makes perfect sense, since most people on the island share British or Irish heritage, and the port of St. John's was a very common stop-over for foreign fishermen. Up until the 1960's it wouldn't be at all uncommon to see Icelandic or Norwegian fishmen strolling the downtown streets (so I'm told), so borrowing from their warm, double-stranded, geometric patterns seems like a sensible thing to do. These days, every now and again I see a pair of these of the chilly streets of Ottawa, and they always make me smile. On occasion, I've asked a complete stranger, "Are you from Newfoundland, or did you just get your gloves there?". It's like a secret handshake to identify those away from home.

Anyway, seeing as I have been unable to find any written pattern for these mitts, which are such a hallmark of Newfoundland culture, and there is very little reference to them anywhere on the internet (other than a few museum shops on the island who sell them), I have decided to take this on as a bit of a project. In just over a month, I'm heading home for a bit of an extended Christmas holiday, and I intend to try to photograph as many of these mitts as possible, to talk to some of the folks who've been knitting them for more years than I've been around, and to finally produce a pattern for them. Surely, with the recent resurgence in knitting popularity, I am not the only young Newfoundlander out there who wants a chance to knit these with nobody locally to show me. So stay tuned for more news on the gloves in the upcoming weeks.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A quest

I have been on a bit of a quest this week - for the perfect sock pattern. I wasn't aware until now just how small the average woman's calves are. Or rather, judging from most sock patterns out there, it appears that my calves must be abnormally large. The problem is, most of the women on my gift list this holiday season will probably be in the same category as me, and thus, began my quest for socks that will go on without completely cutting off circulation, while being stretchy enough to stay up. As you may remember, it all began with the Jaywalkers that were way too small. I ripped those out last Saturday and started again with the higher stitch count. I got to this point:

and then stopped to try them on. Well, they fit now, but if I make them any longer than this, they won't fit. And that's on me. They might not fit my MIL at all. I'm torn between starting the heel here, and ripping them out again and going for the bigger needles. Decision? Put it away for later and go to the LYS for more sock yarn.

So, armed with some new solid-colours (Can you believe I got out of the store with only the four balls of sock yarn I went in for? I've been so good lately.), I went pattern hunting again. I tried a nice leaf lace pattern by Fiber Trends. Too small.
I could experiment with adding a pattern repeat and going to smaller needles, but I'm feeling lazy. And a little time stressed. Christmas is coming, after all! I looked up the cable net pattern from Knitty that I had admired. Great, it has multiple sizes! Too bad the size I need requires three balls, and I only bought two of each colour (note to self: cable socks require more yarn than plain ones). After an evening of viewing I'm sure at least half of all sock patterns available on the web, knitting up swatches, and scouring my knitting library, I finally settled on Pembrokeshire Pathways designed by Brenda Dayne. And they're working out beautifully:

They are nice and stretchy. The yarn is Regia Silk, and I'm using the recommended 2.75 mm needles. It's knitting up quickly, and the four-row pattern repeat is easy to memorize. I'm just turning the heel right now. I've never used silk-blend sock yarn before, mainly due to price. These are meant to be a real luxury pair of socks. The yarn is quite soft, and I hope it will hold up well to multiple washings. Has anyone out there used this before?

And in the "sure, I need another WIP" department, I also broke down and started another project this week, and joined my first Knit Along too. I decided to try out my free trial version sweater design software and create a little cardigan for that Bear Brand wool from the big box of happiness. I've almost finished the back.

For my first design attempt, I decided to keep it pretty simple. It's a zigzag eyelet lace pattern with moss-stitch bands, and it's going to be straight with set-in sleeves. I've kind of got my heart set on 3/4 length sleeves, but according to my calculations, I may not have enough yarn. I guess I'll give it a try, and I can always change to short sleeves if I run out. There's no way I'm going to find another ball of this stuff! And to think it only took me two hours to figure out how the get the KAL button on my sidebar!

Just for fun, here's a little sock ornament I made up this morning to send to a friend in a Christmas card:

It's just 16 stitches knit in the round on 2.25 mm dpns. The best part is, there's no need to weave in ends. Stuffing them inside gives the sock a bit of shape. I may have to make more of these - they're insanely cute!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sock Saturday

First off, the Yarn Harlot was fantastic. She's even funnier in person. The LYS that hosted the event was packed, so we had to sit on the floor up front (right under her nose). The friend who came along with me said she hasn't laughed so hard in a long time, and that it almost makes her want to knit - maybe if she wasn't so busy running marathons, teaching music, and oh, working on a Ph.D. in her spare time! She was amazed at the fun, cackling group of knitters that had gathered. Anyway, Stephanie was great. And she wore the famous wedding shawl! I got my copy of Knitting Rules signed, but I'm afraid I was a little lost for something to say, so I just kind of grinned stupidly and got out of the way of the very long line behind me. And for once in my life, I got out of a yarn shop without buying a single thing (there was a long line at the cash as well, and since our tummies were growling, and they didn't have the Needful Yarns that I've been trying to track down, we left to go out for dinner instead of browsing).

I finished the first Fair Isle sock last night:

(Hmm, for some reason I can't get this photo to rotate for me, despite rotating it in Corel PhotoPaint and saving it. Oh, well, you get the idea). I'm pretty happy with how it turned out. The fit is pretty roomy in the foot, but the tighter top should help it stay up. I'll get to the other one after Christmas. So then I cast on for Jaywalker Socks with Super Soxx. By early this afternoon, it looked like this:

And now I've gone and frogged the whole thing! Why? Well, for starters, it won't fit over my heel! I thought that a 76-stitch sock would be more than big enough (the fair isle's are only 72). But since the stiches are zig-zagging on the bias, the whole sock gets contracted quite a bit. Also, I don't like the way the beige shades are all concentrated at the top. It looks like I've used a completely different yarn for the ribbing. So I've cast on again, shifting my starting point in the colourway down a bit, and I'm trying out the 84-stitch larger size. I'll try to knit a little looser. I hope this will work out better, but I will certainly try it on again after a few inches. The intended recipient of these has pretty average feet like mine, so if they fit me, they should fit her. I guess I can always go up a needle size if all else fails - I do love my tiny needles though.

And now my sore wrist is screaming at me, so I believe it's time to stop for the day. Besides, the apartment is in desperate need of a cleaning. Ah, Saturdays!

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Happiness is a big box of yarn

My ebay purchase arrived today! Nasty Canada Customs decided to ding me for a little extra duty at the post office (haven't you folks gotten enough out of me this year?!), but I got to bring home my big box of very cheap vintage wool.

This is my favourite of the lot. "Bear Brand Town and Country" 2 ply. I have 8 1.5 oz balls. It's quite nice and soft. I've actually started wearing a lot of red lately, so I have to admit, thoughts of joining the red sweater knit-along have crossed
my mind!Other highlights include these assorted skeins, a pile of tapestry wool (which just screams fair isle to me), and a cone of "Bartlett" yellow-pink-tweedy wool, supposedly from Maine, that looks to be about sport weight, plus a lot more that I haven't photographed. Some of it is nice soft wool, others are old-fashioned scratchy stuff. I hate the colour of the peach skein of Botany brand, but I look at that as an opportunity to try dying. There are hours of fun in this box - and that's just in swatching and planning, maybe designing a little.

In knitting news, here's the progress on the first fair isle sock:

I think I might set this aside when I get the first one finished and concentrate on Christmas knitting. The holidays are creeping closer and I still have a long list of gifts to get to. I picked up some Super Soxx the other day, which I think is destined to become Jaywalker Socks for my mother in law. I recently found out that she loved last year's gift socks so much that she has pretty much worn them out. They were just plain ribbed socks in fairly cheap sock wool, back when I was just starting to knit finer gague socks. I'm hoping the Super Soxx will hold up better for mulitple washings - any comments?

And finally, I'm off to meet the Yarn Harlot tonight! I'm heading out to Kanata where Stephanie is speaking and signing books at Yarn Forward. I'm even dragging a non-knitting friend along - well, she offered to come since she lives nearby. Could it be that she's really a knitter just waiting to learn???

Sunday, November 05, 2006

A Productive Weekend

This is going to be a long post - I have a few days to make up for. I've made lots of progress on "making Christmas", and started a couple of new projects. My big adventure was a trip to our local charity shop on Saturday - I love browsing there. I found a rather hideous men's sweater, but in nice "100% virgin wool". I've been wanting to try taking a sweater apart for salvage, and at the price I paid, even if it didn't work, it would have been a worthwhile learning experience. Here's the sweater:

Hideous, isn't it? I like the colours, but it's as if the designer was trying to show off knitting skills - intarsia, fair isle, textured stiches, this sweater's got them all! It didn't show much wear at all which is really not surpising! It's an Eaton's brand sweater, but from the way the ends are woven in and the seams are sewn, it looks as though it was done by hand. Made in Hong Kong.

So I had a fun evening of frogging:

(On a side note, see the wrist brace? It appears that on top of an old strain injury that tends to come back now and again, I'm now showing symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome. Typing all day at school and knitting at night are not complementary activities, it appears.)

I learned a few lessons here. First, frogging intarsia knitting is no fun at all. All of that crossing over and
untangling were trying. Secondly, fairisle sections (like the grey diamonds above) are great, because they have a lot of yarn in them and they come apart easily. Anyway, the end result, after a soak in water and a bit of shampoo, is this:

Many, many yards of co-ordinating coloured wool drip-drying in my bathtub. I haven't figured out the yardage yet, and I'm not sure what it will become. Possibly a felted project or two. We'll see.

Would I do this again? Maybe if it were really nice yarn. But no intarsia. No way!

In other news, I finally blocked the blue lace scarf (and finally found out that the lace pattern is called "ostrich plume"). Here I am modelling the finished product. I think this is going to go to hubbie's grandmother for Christmas. She's a avid and very talented knitter in her own right, so I think she'll really appreciate the amount of work that went into it.

I also finished the purple branching out scarf. Here it is being wet-blocked on my floor. I really need to get some sort of better surface for blocking, but for now I'm making due with towels.

And finally, in an effort to use up some of the stash sock yarn, I started a pair of fair isle socks. The pattern is "Fair Isle Options" from the Patons booklet Classics in Kroy, and the yarn is mostly solids of Sheepjes Invicta Extra (a sock yarn that I've discovered does not wear well at all. I will not be buying any more of it.), along with odds and ends of whatever I had. I started these on dpn's, as the pattern suggests, however, I found that I had really bad ladders at the joins. After a bit of ripping back, I decided to figure out the two circular needle method. I found these instructions really helpful. At least now there are only two joins, and the ladders are much less pr
onounced. It is a bit fiddly to get the hang of, but the big advantage of using the circulars is that you can easily try on the sock without taking it off the needles. Fair isle socks always run the risk of being too tight to get over your heel. These are a little tight, but I can get them on fine. I haven't decided yet if these are going to be gifts or if I'll keep them for myself. This is an earlier photo. I'm just starting the heel right now. I'm doing dark blue for the main colour, but I'll probably do a contrast burgundy heel and toe because I only have one ball of the blue. I don't want to run out and have to buy more - the idea was to use up yarn here.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Toasty Knits for Winter

Winter was definitely in the air last week in Ottawa, but somehow it seems to have warmed up this week enough to allow me to extend my bike commuting into November. Every year, I try to see how long I can go before I break down and buy a transit pass. But living in the second coldest capital city on earth (Ulan Bator, Mongolia is colder than us. Moscow, apparently is warmer!!!) means it's time to start thinking about warm snuggly clothes soon. This weekend I have to go and pull my woolies out of storage.

In the interest of keeping people warm this winter, I finished this toque for my dad for Christmas.

I wanted to make gloves as well, but I didn't have a pattern on hand, and couldn't seem to find anything free online for plain men's gloves in worsted weight. So I set out to design my own. I incorporated a single cable, in the same style as the hat, and came up with this:

I'm really happy with how it turned out, but unfortunately I have to go and get another skein to knit the second glove. It's pretty snug on DH's hand, but then he does have rather wider than normal hands. Hopefully it will fit Dad just fine. I think I will post the pattern here once I get it written up.

I decided that it was high time that I had a pretty hat. It's not cold enough to break out the thrummed mittens and the ear flaps just yet, so I wanted something a little lighter than my full-on winter toques. After surfing around a little, and hunting through the stash, I came up with this:

The pattern is from here, the yarn is Needful Yarns "Arte" in colour 402 (in this photo is looks sort of purple, but it's actually blues and greens). It took just a bit more than one 97-yard skein. I used a larger needle size than the pattern called for - I knit it on a 5 mm circular, so I made the middle size , which at my larger gauge, fits my 22-inch cranium quite nicely. I love this hat! The colours are gorgeous. And now I'm left with my most common dilemma - I have almost a full skein left, which would be about enough for one matching mitten. And I bought the yarn at an LYS in a little town outside the city which I can't easily get back to (I've never owned a car). I must start buying yarn skeins in 3's. It's not a waste if you can actually use it, right?

Speaking of yarn, still no sign of my eBay purchase. But here's a photo of my current stash.

Now, I know this pales in comparison to most knit-bloggers sizeable stashes, but for several good reasons, I have guilty feelings about having this much yarn piled up. Firstly, I am a frugal person by nature. And it's a good thing, since I'm a student on a very tight budget! My grandmother taught me to knit at a young age, and she was the kind of knitter who bought what she needed for a project, used it, and then bought yarn for the next project. And she made many a granny-square afghan over the years in an effort to use up every last scrap. I have a hard time justifying buying any more yarn when I have so much here already waiting to be used, and I have no idea what I'm going to do with most of it. Secondly, we live in a small apratment, and storage space is seriously at a premium. All of my knitting used to fit in that one basket. Now I have a second basket beside the couch for WIP's, and this one full of stash yarn is obviously overflowing. It's currently sitting on the floor in my bedroom - it did live on a top closet shelf, but yarn kept falling on our heads. At least it's more accessible here so I'm more aware of what I have and therefore more inclined to use it up.

So I'm going to make a concerted effort to work through some of this stuff - combining orphaned balls of sock yarn into stripes or fairisle, knitting more charity mittens to get rid of the acrylic leftovers. That way I can get on with planning a few more projects and buying more yarn with less guilt!
And speaking of guilt, I believe it's time that I left for school right now!

  • Mohair mittens (own design)
  • a gift touque in Smart Superwash
  • Accordian jacket (x2) in KnitPicks Swish Superwash
  • Self-designed lace top in Zitron Polo
  • Scarf with Bramble leaf centre from VLT in SRK Collection Ovation
  • Soleil tank top
  • Lola pullover in James Brett Marble
  • a green tweedy pullover vest
  • French Market bag in recycled wool
  • pastel mittens for me in Needful Yarns Arte
  • men's cabled knit cap in Briggs and Little Heritage
  • traditional Newfoundland mitts
  • Sitcom Chic cardigan
  • red eyelet lace cardigan (my own design)
  • cabled birthday sweater for Nick in Galway Heather
  • Swallowtail Shawls (x2) in light blue Misti Alpaca, and Turquoise Splendor KnitPicks Shimmer
  • Best Friend Bear from Interweave Holiday special issue 2006
  • Argosy in handspun BFL
  • Baby sweaters: striped cardigan, Bamboo Baby from One Skein Wonders
  • lace-edged hat in Smart Superwash, blue tweed
  • Socks: "Fair Isle Options", ribbed socks (x4), ribby cable socks in Tofutsies, toe-ups with mini cables in Lorna's Laces, mansocks in stockinette, Brigit socks (pdf) in Meilenweit wool
  • Charity knitting: 3 Warm Woolies kid's vests, 9 toques, 4 pairs socks, 2 baby hats, 2 pairs baby socks, 2 baby blankets