All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Lucky Thirteen

As the weather turns colder and the holidays approach (to my relatives and friends in the upper Midwest and Northeast United States — much love and much respect), my thoughts turn even more to knitting.

  • Knitting behind bars.
  • As if running a marathon weren’t difficult enough. And he’s set the world record,  for both hand-knitting and knitting with needles. An extensive Q & A by Runner’s World here.
  • Apropos of our past discussions on Sherlockian knits, I present Sherlock Holmes, unlikely fashion icon.
  • And speaking of Sherlock Holmes and knitting, Debbie Bliss has a new book, Woolly Woofers, coming out soon that’s all about knitting for dogs. Here‘s Daily Telegraph preview article with some free patterns, including one for “Sherlock Bones” that’s actually kind of cute and it looks very well-designed (although I don’t know what self-respecting dog would be seen with that deerstalker hat). She’s also selling some dog-themed mugs to coincide with the book.
  • And the Grand Central Market is looking good in turquoise, hot pink and yellow. Thank you, Yarnbombing Los Angeles!
  • I haven’t been watching Outlander, but the knits sure make me want to start. They remind me a lot of some of the imaginative accessories available on Etsy.
  • Sally Gilchrist does beautiful ink prints, including some colorful knitting-themed ones. Skeins!

That’s it for now, but I will be posting an update on my (as usual, belated) Smalls Challenge for November and at least one more special gift-themed version of “All the News That’s Fit to Stitch” soon. Now that the semester’s over, I will have more time to post. See you all soon!

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Part the Ninth

From far and wide, from across the Interwebs (a.k.a. the Electronic Cat Database) and beyond, I bring you all the news from the worlds of knitting and stitching that I could gather this week:

  • Professor Fonz has done it again! You may remember her designs, like the “Deduction Game Chullo,” from my obsessive posts on the knits featured in BBC Sherlock series (the first one in the series is here). To go with her cardigan based on the popular “The Wallpaper Had it Coming Again” fair isle pattern, the “#SherlockLives Cardi,” she has added a boatneck-style sweater entitled, “Let’s Play Murder.” According to the Ravelry pattern site, it’s “crime-solving at its most luxurious.” I’ve been working on ampersand design’s “The Wallpaper Had it Coming (Again)” mittens which, although based on the same fair isle pattern, is obviously a much smaller design, and I have to agree with Professor Fonz’s assessment that this fair isle patterned sweater is probably not a project to be entered into lightly by someone who is just beginning to work with the fair isle technique. The results speak for themselves, of course:
Let's Play Murder by Professor Fonz
“Let’s Play Murder” by Professor Fonz

All the News That’s Fit to Stitch: Good News/Bad News Edition

The Good News: Debbie Bliss has just announced a beautiful knitting-themed home collection, including some British-themed knitting accessories and baby gifts. Want, want, want! The colors are bright and joyful, the styling is modern, and the photography is, as usual, top-notch. In many ways, I think of Debbie Bliss as the Martha Stewart of knitting. Her designs are simple but timeless and she’s marketing a lifestyle almost as much as a craft. And, I admit somewhat guiltily, I aspire to that lifestyle, one much removed from my ordinary, beige-carpeted, California apartment life. I’d buy the entire collection if I had that kind of disposable income. For now, I will have to be content with drooling over the images on my computer. I’ve collected a few images here just to give you a little appetizer. Please to enjoy.



The Bad News: as many of you know from my “About” page (or might easily have guessed from the cross stitch design in the right-hand column), I am a big admirer of the Arts & Crafts design movement, and one of my favorite schools of design is the Glasgow School of Art. I am especially enamored of the architect/designer/founder of the school, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. You can learn more about the Charles Rennie Mackintosh society here. Yesterday, there was a big fire at the school which started in the basement and rose all the way to the fifth floor. The extent of the damage to the school’s interior, which is filled with design pieces by Mackintosh, his equally talented wife Margaret MacDonald, other contemporary Scottish Art Nouveau pioneers, and students and teachers from the past century, has yet to be fully determined, but if the news footage is anything to go by, it doesn’t look promising. In particular, it looks like the school’s library, which was meticulously designed by Mackintosh, has been destroyed (the previous link has “before” and “after” photos).

I am overwhelmed with sadness and the immensity of this loss. If you are able to contribute to the rebuilding fund, please do so. I will be contributing half the proceeds of my “Mackintosh Welcome” design to the fund for the foreseeable future.

If you want to work out your loss with knitting, try this Mackintosh Rose Jacket by Martin Storey, the Beloved Rose Beret by Shuttermonkey Designs, or this Glasgow Rose Stole by Lucy Hague. For cross-stitch designs inspired by Mackintosh and the Glasgow School of Art, Heartland House and Art-Stitch are the best American designers out there.

The Olympic Games: Special Scandinavian Knitting Edition

I’ll admit — I’ve never been that interested in the Olympic games. Of course, I admire enormously the athleticism, grace and almost inhuman dedication of the participants, and I can only imagine all the hard work and sacrifice that’s gone into their training, but it’s never really been my cup of tea. I’m the classic fairweather fan; I watch the Winter Olympics for the figure skating. And the knits, of course. Can you believe those US Olympic team sweaters are selling for up to $3000 on Ebay?

However, during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, I participated tangentially in the Ravellenic Games, the non-copyright-infringing knitathlon organized by some members of Ravelry. I was specifically, supposedly, participating in one with my favorite local knitting groups, the West Hollywood Stitch n Bitch (WeHo SnB) group. While I cast on faithfully just as the US team was entering the stadium for the opening ceremonies, I didn’t finish my tribute to England and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee until months later:

Cool Brittania! Long live the Queen!
Debbie Bliss Union Jack Cushion, my 2012 Ravellenics project

In related news from this year’s games, this story of Olympic KIP (that’s “knitting in public,” for my stitching friends) has been making knitters sit up and take notice all over the world. The coach for Finnish snowboarder Roope Tonteri (now my favorite snowboarder in all the world), Antti Koskinen, has been filmed knitting while Tonteri is competing and performing his flippy-doodles and twirly-gigs (you can tell by my clever use of snowboarding lingo that I really know what I’m talking about). What a multitasker! I always get a little burst of joy when I see displays of knitting in public (KIP) and, frankly, this one couldn’t make me happier. I mean, seriously now.

It also makes me happy to see a man knitting in public. Sadly, I think the entire story would have been treated with such condescension (and numerous references to grey-haired grannies) if it had been a female coach or even a female snowboarder. From the photos, it looks like he has his own knitter’s assistant, too, to feed him the yarn as he knits his little garter stitch masterpiece. Where do I get one of those?

It turns out the project is part of a larger scarf project that will eventually be given to the Finnish Olympic team going to Rio de Janeiro in 2016. Why anyone would need a thick knitted scarf in Brazil in the summer is another mystery altogether. But I wouldn’t dare rain on this parade. And now there’s a reason to watch the next Olympic games!

And, to brighten your day even more, I bring you this picture of an enthusiastic Norwegian fan and his crocheted ensemble:

If only they gave out a medal in outrageous crocheted fashion! Go for the gold!
Brought to you by Ellen Bloom of “L.A. is my Beat” and WeHo Stitch n Bitch fame

MYOKB: “Lacy Scarf” Finished!

"Lacy Scarf" Finished!
“Lacy Scarf” Finished!

I don’t have any “in progress” photos this week, but I have (somehow) managed to finish this week’s project, “Lacy Scarf” (page 62 of Debbie Bliss’s The Knitter’s Year), from My Year of Knitting Blissfully (MYOKB).

Although it came out quite well, in my humble opinion, I must admit that this was not my favorite project to work. In part, this was due to the repetitive nature of the pattern (the same four rows over and over again), but this was mostly due to interference from my new kitten, Tuppence, who decided to make this scarf her personal plaything. She chewed the heck out of my nice size 5 bamboo circulars, causing the yarn to snag repeatedly until I could find time to replace them. She also attacked the two balls of Classic Elite Silky Alpaca Lace (colors 2416, off-white, and 2420, aqua blue) I was knitting with.

Since I was using two strands of the Silky Alpaca Lace, I was using the “trick” of pulling one strand from the center of the skein and one from the outer edge.  I also trailed the alternating colors of yarn up the side and intertwined the resting yarn with the working yarn to “hook” it into place. All of this twisting of multiple strands of yarn, combined with kitten shenanigans, led to a very frustrating knitting experience.

"Lacy Scarf" Close-up
“Lacy Scarf” Close-up

And just how long is Debbie Bliss’s week anyway? I mean, I know she runs a worldwide knitting empire, but seriously, this scarf took awhile to knit (even taking into account the problems I mentioned above).

The pattern calls for working half the scarf in one direction, placing it on a stitch holder, and then working another half of the scarf and grafting the two halves together. Instead, I worked the entire scarf in one piece and one direction. This caused the two ends to look slightly different from each other, but I’m OK with that. You can judge for yourself from the photo at the top of this post.

All that said, the resulting scarf is quite nice and the chevron effect is beautiful.

MYOKB: “Striped Baby Hat” Finished!

Debbie Bliss "Striped Baby Hat" Finished
Debbie Bliss “Striped Baby Hat” Finished

After last week’s endless seed stitch adventure, this week’s foray into My Year of Knitting Blissfully (MYOKB) has been a piece of cake. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, as they say.

This week’s project (finished in one evening, as predicted) is the “Striped Baby Hat” on page 68, which I worked using GGH Goa in white and Suss Snuggle in a lovely shade of French blue. Although the labels describe these yarns as having slightly different fiber contents (slightly different percentages of cotton and acrylic), I strongly suspect, actually, that these two yarns are identical to each other and are just marketed under different names and brands. This is a common practice in the yarn world. Anyway, they worked together swimmingly and the gauge match was perfect. Gauge isn’t super-important with a project like this one, of course. My philosophy is that, eventually, the baby’s head will fit the hat.

"Striped Baby Hat" with seam and jogless jog showing, sort of
“Striped Baby Hat” with seam and jogless jog showing, sort of

I’ve made many baby hats similar to this one in the past, so the only real trick I remastered was the “jogless jog,” a technique to help you avoid unsightly “hitches in your stitches” (which is waaaay better than hitches in your britches, trust me) when you work stripes in the round. Basically the technique involves knitting the first round of any new color change as usual, and then knitting the first stitch of the previous round together with the first stitch of the second round. You can see it more eloquently described by the inimitable Meg Swanson here.

And you can (kind of) see the “jogless jog” in action if you look at the right side of this second picture of the “Striped Baby Hat” ; follow the seam up from the little “bump” in the bottom hem on the far right. Apologies for not taking a better picture.

MYOKB: Baby Cardigan Finished!

Baby Cardigan finished!
Baby Cardigan finished!

A three-needle bind-off here. A chocolate grosgrain ribbon there. A little seaming. And the Baby Cardigan is finished at last! Phew! It looks beautiful and since my little niece, Lauren Amelia, was born the week before last, I’m glad that I will have an even more beautiful baby to give it to.

This bright fuchsia pink is not my usual color choice, but when I imagined this cardigan, the only ribbon choice I could envision was chocolate grosgrain (1/4″ wide). If I was one of those people who got paid to think of names for color combinations, I would call this one “Raspberry Truffle.”

"Baby Cardigan," Close up with Chocolate Grosgrain Ribbon
“Baby Cardigan,” Close up with Chocolate Grosgrain Ribbon

Since this project took me so long to finish, I’m glad that this week’s is a simple baby hat. I can probably knock that out in one night.

"Baby Cardigan" finished, with ribbon, and photographed at a rakish angle
“Baby Cardigan” finished, with ribbon, and photographed at a rakish angle

MYOKB: Baby Cardigan in (slightly faster) Progress

Debbie Bliss "Baby Cardigan," Back, Rakish Angle
Debbie Bliss “Baby Cardigan,” Back, Rakish Angle

After what seemed like several weeks but was only actually a few days, I’ve finished the back of the “Baby Cardigan.” As I’ve mentioned before, I love, love, love the look of seed stitch, but it takes me so long to work. I figure that this pattern would have taken me half as long to make if it were done in stockinette or garter stitch.

To help speed the process along, and in keeping with my goal of trying to expand my repertoire of knitting techniques throughout My Year of Knitting Blissfully, I researched some supposedly faster ways of working seed stitch. I knit in a style I laughingly call “modified-throw Continental” — in other words, I do hold the yarn in my left hand but I don’t use the right-hand needle to “pick” at the yarn, like most Continental knitters do, but instead I kind of “throw” the yarn over the needle, like most English-style knitters do. There’s no wrong way to knit, right? Just ask the divine Annie Modesitt.

The interwebs were all agog about the “Norwegian purl” which supposedly makes it faster for continental-style knitters to work “K1 P1” stitches like ribs and seed stitch. The advantage of this technique is that the yarn is always held at the back of the needles so there’s no need to move the yarn from the front to the back (and back again) after every stitch.

After viewing several videos and tutorials online, I tried several times to make the “Norwegian purl” work with my style of knitting, but no luck. Maybe it’s because of the way I knit, or maybe I didn’t give it enough of a chance.

Debbie Bliss "Baby Cardigan" Back, Photographed Straight-on
Debbie Bliss “Baby Cardigan” Back, Photographed Straight-on

There’s no way I will be finished with this project by the end of my allotted week (which ends today). My first missed deadline. Sigh.

MYOKB: Baby Cardigan in (slow) Progress

Front Half of Baby Cardigan in Progress
Front Half of Baby Cardigan in Progress

And here you have the first half of the front of the “Baby Cardigan” from p. 38 of Debbie Bliss’s A Knitter’s Year. And it’s taken me almost all week to complete. And this is only one-third of the final project… Yikes.

On the plus side — this is going to be GORGEOUS when it’s finished. This bright raspberry color (Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino color #340042, sadly discontinued now) is delicious, and it’s made even more delicious in my eyes by the fact that I got in on mega-sale at Little Knits so this whole project is costing my under $10. It’s also making a dent in my stash.

On the minus side — this project is taking me f-o-r-e-v-e-r. Just how long is Debbie Bliss’s week anyway? Basically, the problem is seed stitch itself. Even though it’s one of my favorite stitches in terms of the final result (and it’s reversible!), it’s a slow stitch to work since you have to move the yarn between the front and back of the needles with every stitch.

Maybe it’s time to investigate quicker ways to work seed stitch.

MYOKB: Clothespin Bag Finished! At very last minute!

Clothespin Bag Finished with Hanger

So, I finished the Clothespin bag at the very last minute last night with some generous help from my talented roommate whose sewing skills vastly out-strip mine. You can see some pictures of the Clothespin bag in its formative stages here and here.

I predicted that I would finish this project with time to spare, but I hadn’t taken into account the time required for finishing. I’m looking forward to the projects coming up since there’s no sewing involved.

The above picture is the completed version with the lining sewn in, the sides crocheted together, and the hanger placed inside. Crocheting the knitted edges together went quite quickly and, in my humble opinion, actually looks better than sewing the edges together on the machine. I also worked a single crochet stitch along the curved edges of the “envelope” (as Debbie Bliss describes it), which I think will give the edges a bit more strength.

With the hanger, I resorted to good old-fashioned elbow grease and a sharp aluminum knitting needle which I used to open up a hole in the fabric and force the hanger hook through. Bliss was (not atypically) maddeningly vague on how exactly to do this part of the finishing.

Sadly, since I live in an apartment, and have no backyard, I don’t have a clothesline from which to hang my new bag. I’ve decided to use it to hold my vast collection of plastic grocery bags awaiting recycling — not a very glamorous use for beautiful handmade bag, but it will look pretty hanging in my utility closet and maybe that will make recycling a happier chore.