Happy New Year!

Bet you thought I’d forgotten all about you.

In truth, I’ve been thinking of you all a great deal lately and there has actually been a huge amount going on. Some of you I see (semi) regularly so you know all about it, but this might be news for others.

The big and really exciting thing is in July, I quit my very secure job with regular pay, benefits and regular vacation to buy my local yarn store!

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Superficially, it was a mad and hair-brained idea but in truth I think it’s the best thing (also the scariest thing) I’ve ever done for myself. This path allows me to combine all skills gained in various jobs I’ve had since I was in my early 20s. I learned to track and manage a large inventory when I worked for HMV, I learned web development and e-commerce when I taught at a tech school and gained a lot of experience teaching adults at my most recent job. All these elements combine with knitting, spinning and to a lesser extent weaving to put me in a good place with regards to the skills needed to run a yarn store. I have no doubt that comments and observations about owning a yarn store will appear from time to time here. If you have specific questions, ask!

Other things have been going on as well. I am still knitting though right now, I’m in a bit of a slump. I was looking through my past year on Ravelry and the number of items I completed is quite low. This struck me as odd because I feel like I spent the entire year frantically knitting to meet deadlines. I made eight sweaters, though two were for a baby, three big scarfs/shawls, a cowl, four pairs of socks, a baby blanket, a beanie and a pair of colourwork mitts. And then it hit me – I DID spend the past year knitting frantically but many of the items I was working on were secret test knits with aggressive deadlines so I wasn’t able to make project pages on Rav, post photos of them to Instagram or even really talk about them.

A few of the items I can talk about now but were secret at the time. I took part in test knitting for Woods which was published by Making Stories and made a scarf.

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The pattern was a gift for people who pledged a certain amount in the crowdfunding campaign. I also worked on one of the sweaters. The thing with this sweater is it didn’t end up being part of the final publication so I knit most of a heavily cabled sweater in sport weight yarn, only to have the test stopped. A few months later we were sent a new pattern as a last minute substitute (I actually like the new pattern better). I did start working on this and knit most of it but then I bought a store and that really took over my life for a few months so I never finished it. Truthfully, I probably won’t finish it – I’ll rip it out and reskein the yarn – again – and keep it for something I pick myself. The yarn, however, is absolutely stunning!

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Which leads me to the next thing – I’m done with test knitting for the next while.  Apart from all the tests I did, I only made two things last year which were for me and only a single pair of socks for my husband. Much of what I made was really quite lovely but none of them were really ‘chosen’ by me. I didn’t sift through Ravelry looking for a sweater with a specific weight and specific design features to fill a gap in my wardrobe, I simply answered testing calls. So this year, I’m being much more conscious of my time and how I choose to spend it. There are things I want to make for me and for my family. The lopi from Iceland I’m supposed to be making for my husband is still looking at me. The body is finished and I’ve started a sleeve but really – it doesn’t take nine months to knit a sweater!

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I had wanted this to be done much sooner because at about the same time as I bought the store, he took a new work contract in Kiev, Ukraine. Fortunately, they are having a very mild winter (so far) but I’d be much happier if he had a big sweater.

So I think you’re all caught up now. There will be lots to add in the next while. I’ve done some spinning as well which I’ll save for another day.

Wishing you peace, joy, health and happiness in 2018.

Episode 1

The last video was a huge success so I’ve decided to keep with the format. I hope you enjoy it.

In this first episode, I talk about the following:

[00:00:59] Wood Runner Pullover by Erin Searl
This is a test knit so I can’t provide a link for it yet.

[00:02:19] Cowl (Winter Shadows?)

[00:03:13] Iceland Socks
Pattern: Hermione’s Everyday Socks, by Erica Lueder – a free download from Ravelry
Yarn: BFL Socks in Wellspring by SweetGeorgia Yarns (Discontinued)
HiyaHiya Sharps 2.25mm

[00:04:30] Scrappy Blanket
Pattern: The Coziest Memory by Kemper Wray
Yarn: Assorted
Needle: Hiya Hiya 2.75mm

[00:07:54] Lopi
Pattern: Hrím
Yarn: Alafoss Lopi – assorted colours

[00:09:44] Spinning – Forest Row Farm Shetland Fleece

Video Music Credit

For Mimi by Twin Musicom is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)

Artist: http://www.twinmusicom.org/

Catching Up

You know that feeling when you get knocked out of your routine – sometimes for terrible reasons, but sometimes for really great reasons like vacations? Yeah, that is exactly what happened to me. I went to Iceland at Easter. It was amazing. If you’ve been there you know all about it, but if you’ve never been then I highly recommend it.

In this time that I haven’t written a blog post, I’ve often been sitting at the computer, thinking of you all and wondering how on earth I could possibly get it all written down. All the projects I’ve finished, the wips and the things I’m not sure what to do with. I had a Eureka moment last week when I was watching a podcast and thought  “What if I just made a video to talk about everything that’s going on…that would be easier.”

So that’s what I did. If you like this and think I should continue in this format, please let me know – either here or on YouTube. I hope you like it.

 

Beginnings

A few weeks ago, I took this photo and its been in my head ever since.

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We’d had a snowfall and then a strong wind and I liked the texture of the windblown snow.  Later I stumbled across a pattern that reminded me of this windblown snow.  In my mind’s eye, I see this as a cowl with a garter band at the top and the bottom, with the wandering cables in the middle. Possibly with an i-cord (I haven’t decided yet).

Swatch

What do you think? I think this will make a great cowl!

Winner!

Wonders never cease.

A couple weeks ago, I was reading a lovely blog I follow called NothingButKnit and she had just updated the template her blog was using. I’m in the process of doing the exact same thing on my blog – working through branding, trying to identify ‘my reader’, and generally figuring out how I want my blog to look. Anyway, as part of her update NothingButKnit2 was asking for feedback and as a bit of an incentive to comment, she decided to make it into a contest where the winner received a skein of yarn from her stash. Since I’m rarely without an opinion on something I took some time and wrote down what I thought but I never win anything and honestly, that really wasn’t the incentive to comment. But as it happens, I won!

The package arrived today and oh, it’s absolutely beautiful. I was thinking I’d probably be frozen by indecision if I had to pick something out of my stash to send to someone I don’t know but she made an inspired choice. The yarn comes from a local-to-her but new-to-me dyer called A Hundred Ravens. This is 400 yards of 2-ply, fingering weight, 100% superwash merino. My favourite. The colour is called Koa and it is so perfectly me. The colours aren’t quite true in the picture, the sections that look plum are actually quite green. It’s absolutely perfect!

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As if this weren’t enough, she also included a set of stitch markers in matching colours which were made by her husband! Aren’t they wonderful!

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I’ve had some good mail days recently, but I think this is the best. Thank you NothingButKnit, for such a lovely and thoughtful package. Now to find the perfect project.

Stalled

I’m stalled on all my projects. I’m waiting on a response to a reported error in the big test knit I’m working on, am waiting for swatches to dry for a design project, got the wrong colour yarn for a shawl that is half finished and am bored with a fussy cardigan for a little person. Couple this with seeing all the lovely things from Edinburgh Yarn Festival (the Perth I live in is nowhere near Scotland, let along Edinburgh so sadly, I did not attend) and I snapped.

I cast on another project.

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This is Antipodes from Truly Myrtle Designs of New Zealand. I did a test knit of Gingerbread, a recent pattern of hers and liked it enough that I’m knitting something else from her. This is a slim crescent shawl that I’m working in Cascade Yarns Heritage Silk. This yarn is an 85/15 wool/silk blend and is lovely to work with. I knit a pullover out of this about 4 years ago and had totally forgotten that I had a leftover skein of yarn in my stash. I love it when I find the perfect thing tucked away in a bin!

I’d like to have this finished for a trip which will likely happen around the end of April – I’ll tell you more as plans firm up but I can tell you that it is to celebrate two big birthdays in my household. Both my husband and son are having milestone birthdays within a week of each other so we’re taking a trip. We used to travel all the time when we lived in Asia and realized that we’ve been back in Canada for almost 10 years and haven’t gone anywhere as a family.

 

Something New

I have the most exciting news to share with you all.  I’m planning to embark on my knitwear design ‘career’ and publish a pattern for socks!  There’s an enormous amount to learn, but it’s also exciting and a bit nerve-wracking as well.  If you’ve been following my Instagram account for a while, you’ll have seen this lattice pattern. It showed up about 4 months ago and after a few revisions, rip backs, re-knits, tears and swearing, it finally all came together.

These are my Rose Ladder Socks.

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The name comes from a mis-translation I saw while living in Asia. One day when I was in a flower market I saw a man selling garden trellises with a hand lettered sign in English which read “Rose Ladders”. I was charmed by this and in some ways, I like the name better.

I don’t have a publication date just yet, but I’d like to have them out by early summer – just in time for the roses.

Testing, Testing

I’ve been quiet lately – longer than I meant to be. It’s not that I have nothing to show you or tell you about, more than I was under a bit of a gag order.

I’ve been test knitting. For those who don’t know, test knitting is when you get an advance copy of a pattern to knit with the goal of finding and reporting all the mistakes and typos to the designer so they can be fixed prior to publication. I find this a fascinating process – it gives unique insight into pattern development and I really like being able to contribute in some small way to the success of someone’s creative effort by helping to reduce the number of errors. It will never be perfect, but I can certainly see the value of this exercise.

So now that two of the three patterns I’ve committed to have been released, let me show  you what I’ve been doing:

Gingerbread

Gingerbread was knit for Libby of Truly Myrtle designs in New Zealand.

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At first glance, this looks like a simple pullover without a lot of detail. But look closer – have a look at the ribbing.

I’ve never seen anything like this! And then there are the details which you only know about if you actually knit the sweater. This sweater uses top down, seamless construction and makes clever use of short rows for the set-in sleeves.

I knit this over the Christmas holidays and it was the perfect knit – it didn’t require much attention from me – just knit. I used Rowan Pure Wool Superwash Worsted in Mallard.

Gascogne Scarf for WOODS – making stories

This scarf isn’t actually available for purchase directly – it’s a bonus pattern if you opt to support the crowdfunding campaign for WOODS – making stories.

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This project is a new knitting book which focuses on breed-specific European yarns and features 11 patterns, designer profiles, and tutorials. For as little as €35, you can get a copy of the book as well as patterns for this scarf and a charming hat. If you are local to Berlin, there are some incredible packages which give access to the launch party (wish I could go to that!) and at the top tier, a yarn day in Berlin. Now that the European Parliament has ratified the CETA trade deal, I expect that these yarns will become more affordable in Canada so I see this as a good introduction to some of Europe’s premier yarns.

The Gascogne Scarf pattern was designed by a French designer called Solène Le Roux and uses a Spanish yarn from a producer called dLana. It is 100% merino spun as a rustic-looking single ply yarn that is so incredibly soft with great stitch definition and can certainly be worn next to skin.

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The scarf works up to a luxurious 8 feet long so it can be either worn very long, or wrapped twice around your neck.

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I have one more project that I can’t talk about yet, and I have nothing to show you anyway because I’m still waiting for my  yarn which is coming from Switzerland. But check back soon – I’ll have some teaser pictures as soon as the yarn arrives.

Looking Forward

This post is part of the #MyFiberStory Instagram challenge. The tag for today is #MyWhy and while it is easy enough to say that I knit and spin because I live in a cold climate and need all the help I can get to keep me and my family warm, there is more to it than that.

During the holidays, I made it out to a yoga class which was part restorative yoga, part vision board and part intention setting.

Intention setting isn’t the same as making resolutions. Its about examining the ‘why’ behind a resolution and deciding to incorporate that why into your life. So for example, rather than saying I want to lose xx pounds, dig a little deeper and discover why. Is it for health, social pressure or vanity? Whatever the answer, keep asking yourself why until you finally get to the little nugget of truth that you can use as a touchstone to guide your decisions through the year.

Part of the class was deep relaxation and during this time, part of my brain went to sleep – but part of my brain was very active. A very odd and different sensation and suddenly I knew, as surely as I knew my own name that this was the year to let go of fear and to stop letting fear hold me back. I admit to a great deal of fear as I write this and put my intentions out into the world, but now I can ask the world for help too.

This is the year that I’m going to really put my fibre-y ideas out into the world. I have a number of thoughts that are still taking shape but I’m quite excited by all of them. They involve connection with other artists, confidence in my skills and belief that I have something to offer, trust in my creativity and honouring myself by saying yes to things that excite me (even if they scare me too) and saying no to things which no longer serve me. This is #MyWhy.

An Ancient WIP

Yesterday, we put up our Christmas tree – but not in our usual location. The past few years, it’s been in a fairly central location in the house but we found it interfered with traffic flow. Add 12 people, 2 big dogs, a nervous cat and factor in uneven floors because the house is almost 200 years old and …well, it was always a little precarious. So this year we moved it.

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It’s out of the main traffic area, but still quite visible. In order to make this space work though I had to move a chair, a small side table and a couple balls of yarn. I had at one time used this as a knitting area but have since moved to a different spot. Under the table, was a wooden box with a handle which I had used to hold active projects. I picked this up at a furniture market in Beijing.

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Oddly, it was full – I didn’t think I had anything in it. I found some early spinning attempts, some fibre I haven’t yet spun and a plastic bag. This bag is a bio-degradable type plastic and was so old, that it was disintegrating in the box!

Inside, I found this.

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According to Ravelry, I started this in July of 2012. Yes, it’s 4 1/2 years old.

I haven’t the faintest idea why I stopped working on it. Based on some of the photos I took at about the same time, it was blazing hot but the entire mitten was done except for the thumb, and that isn’t much of an effort at all. According to my project notes, I didn’t like the way the pattern was written for the thumb (the pattern has you stop working on the mitt, knit the thumb, use a 3-needle bind off to attach it and then finish the mitt) so I had used some waste yarn to mark the spot, finished the mitt and then was going to pull out the waste yarn, pick up the stitches and knit the thumb. I had got as far as pulling out the waste yarn and had picked up the stitches. All I needed was to knit for 20 minutes to finish it. I can’t for life of me figure out why I stopped.

So I finished it. And cast on the second mitt.

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Pattern: 5-9 from Anna Zilboorg’s Magnificent Mittens & Socks.
Yarn: Illimani Yarn Royal I (Royal Alpaca).