Local Yarn Store Day

Saturday April 21 marked the first (hopefully annual) Local Yarn Store Day, where fibre people were encouraged to go support their brick and mortar Local Yarn Stores.  I have four in my immediate area, four that I love dearly, and I would have loved to visit them all, but Saturday ended up being a perfect storm of errands, budget constraints, and the beginnings of a cold.  My errand running did put Soper Creek Yarn in Bowmanville right in my path, so of course I stopped in.

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I was there fairly early in the morning, sometime between 10am and 11am, and the store was buzzing with activity! Tina, the owner, had various sales on for LYS Day, and the big sign for LYS day was inviting.

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I was good to my bank account (the Toronto Knitter’s Frolic is April 28, after all, and one should budget accordingly), and I bought a skein of Cascade Heritage Sock in a lovely forest green colour.  A few weeks previous from Soper Creek, I bought a beautiful speckled skein from Mineville Wool Project, and the green was purposefully purchased to compliment the speckles.

In the past, I’ve written about why I love LYSs and why, I think, all knitters should support the LYS in their community.  Local Yarn Shop Day was another opportunity to bring attention to the small businesses in our community, to encourage people to shop local, and to discover for themselves what’s to love about a LYS.

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For Whom the Bell (Gauge) Tolls

Materials – Three ounces of three-thread fleecy wool; pins, No. 14.

So starts a pattern for a Woolen Chemisette from 1857.  There are many challenges facing a knitter when looking at a pattern written decades ago.  The most obvious is the language. Today, there’s an accepted phrasing for knitting patterns, terms and phrasing that are common and used with great frequency; technical editors help pattern designers ensure terminology is correct and consistent.  Reading and understanding a pattern from the 1800s isn’t nearly as clear as understanding modern patterns.

Once you get used to the lingo and understand what the pattern is wanting from you, the next challenge is figuring out the materials.  ‘Pins, No 14.’ While reading about historic knitting needles and trying to understand their sizes, I discovered the Bell Gauge, named as such for its distinctive bell shape.

Today, needle gauges are valuable tools, helping knitters discern their needle sizes, that is if it isn’t handily printed on the side, and they aren’t a modern invention.

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T.276-1979: Bell Gauge, from the Victoria & Albert Collection

It appeared these handy tools started creeping into popularity in the early to mid 1800s. It was in the mid 1800s when Henry Walker created his gauge, and commonly, patterns for the late 1800s call for knitting pin sizes based on the Walker’s Bell Gauge. According to Sheila Williams, a Walker’s gauge can be (somewhat) easy to date in that after 1876, their gauges feature an archer as the logo, where before 1876 and the death of Walker, it featured the Royal Coat of Arms, indicating royal patronage.

Interestingly, a book from 1885 recommended using a gauge to determine needle size, but also admitted that “many do not consider it necessary, especially as gauges are somewhat expensive” (Jane Cunningham Croly, Knitting and Crochet: A Guide to the Use of the Needle and the Hook, 1885).

Thankfully, there are knitting historians who have done far more research than I into methods from the past.  Colleen Formby researched and written quite notably about knitting during the US Civil War era, and she has shared information about needle sizes and their historical equivalent.  This is where I’m going to just insert my own personal opinion – a standard needle size would make oh so much since.  Being Canadian, I am very biased towards the metric measurement, but I’d be very accommodating if we could all just get along and come up with a universal standard, but I digress. Formby states that the size 14 that Godey’s was calling for may translate to a size 0 or 2mm – aka very tiny needles.  I plan on starting this chemisette, and perhaps writing another blog into the history of this undergarment, and knowing what materials to use is a great start.

I would love to add a vintage bell gauge to my collection of knitting paraphernalia, so I’m keeping my eyes open at thrift shops and antique shops.  It would be not only a good tool for future reference but a fun trinket from days gone by.


References:

Jane Cunningham Croly, Knitting and Crochet: A Guide to the Use of the Needle and the Hook, 1885, accessed from: https://books.google.ca/books?id=PUdFAQAAMAAJ&lpg=PA51&ots=q-XkcKWlqp&dq=bell%20gauge%20knitting&pg=PA9#v=onepage&q&f=false)

Colleen Formby, Everyone His Own Knitting Needles, accessed from: http://www.raggedsoldier.com/knitting_1.pdf

Bell Gauge, Victoria & Albert Collection, accessed from: http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O108412/bell-gauge-needle-gauge-g-chambers-co/

Sheila Williams, The History of Knitting Pin Gauges (Melrose Press, 2006), accessed from: https://books.google.ca/books?id=Y2gmkFgUEcwC&dq=walker+bell+gauge&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Woollythoughts.com

 

My Perfect Cowl

I have a new favourite knitting project, and I think I’m a wee bit obsessed.  Since delving into this knitting obsession hobby, I’ve become a bin fan of shawls, scarves and any other neck accessory (neck-cessory?).  The problem with shawls is that throughout the day, they shift, they slouch, they constantly need to be adjusted.

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Enter the bandana cowl. Guys, they are, in my very humble opinion, the perfect cowl. They have interest with the shape – they look like a shawl, but without the fuss of constantly fiddling with the ends.  If you choose a simple pattern, the yarn can shine, like with my Escarpment Cowl.  The yarn was the fabulous Mineville Wool Project Merino DK Single, named in honour of the Ontario Science Centre, and the colours were truly the star with the rich blues and greens.  The simplicity of the pattern, designed by Shireen Nadir of Blue Brick Yarns, truly showcases the yarns.  It was designed in mind for her Blue Brick gradients – if you haven’t checked out this indie Canadian dyer yet, please head over to her website.  My apologies in advance to your bank account.


Even with a more intricate pattern, like Tipsoo Cowl by britt schmiesing, which somehow just FLEW off my needles a few weeks ago, the yarn still can be the star is naturally is (it’s Indigodragonfly, because I know you were curious) and yet the pattern allows for texture difference and adds interest to a knitter who may not always like the appeal of endless rounds of simple stockinette.

I’ve been endlessly searching Ravelry for more patterns of this structure.  I’m hoping to become comfortable enough with the construction of this accessory to perhaps experience to with my own designs. I end up wearing most shawls wrapped around my neck.  These bandana cowls allow for the same look of a shawl without the bulk and without the fuss.  Like I said, my perfect cowl.

A Little Old Fashioned

I’ve made good progress on my  Captain America shawl.  I’ve been working away at it, row by row and bead by bead, all the while watching any Marvel movie available on Netflix.  I truly thought it would have taken far longer than it’s seeming to right now, but I’m happily watching the progress take place.


The yarn, as I explained last week was all hand dyed. The grey finished with steaks of mint green throughout, a result of the black I used for dye breaking, and after receiving encouraging comments from a revelry group, I decided to keep it as is.  The green isn’t bothering me nearly as much as I feared it would at first glance.


The most challenging part of the shawl has been the beading, as this is a new technique for me. Like with all new things, at first it felt like such a foreign motion, but after over 300 beads, muscle memory starts to form and progress got faster.  The beads are adding a lovely weight to the shawl, and I’m just excited to see it taking shape.  That I get to re-watch any Marvel movie I can get my hands on, well that’s just an added bonus.

A Finishing Kind of Mood

What a productive week, at least for knitting.  I can’t really comment about the rest of the week because my time was largely spent knitting.  Because of this, I now have two new shawls to add to my ever growing collection.  Earlier in the week, I finished my Bigger on the Inside shawl, pattern by Kate Atherley.  I posted months ago about dyeing the yarn for this shawl, my first foray into home-dyeing.  After working on this shawl for months, I’m rather happy to see it off the needles.


The other project I happily finished had only been on the needles for two weeks.  It was a very fast knit.  The pattern is called Tipsoo Cowl from Creative Knitting magazine.  I checked libraries in my city and surrounding towns, but no branch had this issue; my desire to make this pattern was strong enough that I caved and bought the digital edition of this magazine.  Totally worth it because I love this finished cowl.


The cowl was part of yet another challenge I joined (apparently I can’t help myself).  The Toronto Knitter’s Frolic is hosting a challenge, encouraging people to use yarns in your stash from previous frolics, and if you do so, you may have a chance to win prizes. I bought this beautiful yarn from Indigodragonfly from last year’s frolic.

AND, on top of all this, I’ve been dyeing again.  I’m a huge fan of the MCU and am very excited for when Infinity Wars hits the theatres. I’m so excited, that I’ve started knitting a Captain America shawl, because, why not at this point. I had enough blue yarn left from the Tardis shawl, and I thought it would be nice to have the shawl made entirely from yarn I’ve dyed.  Red was dyed on Saturday, and I had today, Monday, off, so the grey/silver was dyed this afternoon.  It was a tricky colour to get right, but all afternoon, I’ve been peaking at my slow cooker, getting increasingly happy with what I saw.


So, what have I been up to this week, you ask? Yarn.  All the yarn.

Madewell was, well, Made Well

It’s finished.  After 11 months on my needles, of picking it up, putting it down for weeks, then the flurry of ribbing at the end, my Madewell Cardigan is finished.

And I love it.

My only really modification came right at the end.  The collar involved picking up over 300 stitches and ribbing for 28 rows. I was thrilled to ‘Bind off as established’ as called for the pattern but as soon as I tried it on, I wasn’t happy with it.  ‘If only I did a stretchy bind-off’ I thought.  Hoping it would block okay, I washed and blocked and crossed my fingers.  Tried it on after and still not happy.  So what do I do? Because I’m apparently insane, I took out the bind off edge, carefully putting the now live stitches back on my cable needle, and bound off using Jeny’s Surprisingly Stretchy Bind off.  This process must have taken about 3-4 hours, removing, putting live stitches back on, and re-casting off all with black fingering weight yarn, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m SO much happier with the finished edging, and I love my new cardigan to bits.

Pattern: Madewell by Joji Locatelli
Yarn: Cascade Heritage Solids, black; the elbow patches were from bits and bobs of leftover Manos del Uruguay Alegría.

On Pinterest Enabling My Addictions

Hi, my name is Lisa and I’m a yarn-aholic. (Hi Lisa). In fact, I have a new yarn related habit. I cannot stop pinning beautiful hand dyed yarns on Pinterest.

It starts so innocently, you search dyed yarn and you find a few beautiful pictures. You then create a board dedicated to dyed yarns so that all the pretty is in one place. You think your habits are under control, but then Pinterest takes over. As soon as you start the app, there are suggest pins of variegated yarns, speckled, hand painted, and everything in between. And you can’t stop. You pin and repin and the cycle continues.

And then this addiction of looking at the lovely yarns spins into the desire to replicate the lovely yarns and get dyeing. So this innocent habit of simply looking means going out, buying bare yarn, and dyeing. So far, my bank account has let me dive that deep into the addiction, but man oh man, these yarns are really inspirational.

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