Three Knitters take a Weaving Trip

Aka- Rachel, Denny and I go to The Spinning Loft for Sara Lambs cut pile class.  (A photo-essay with sort of random captions.)

1. I drove through the city to fetch up Denny and Rachel.  I really, really, really don’t drive much, partly because I don’t need to, and partly because it makes me anxious. Turns out that owning Daniel the GPS has removed some of the anxiety of driving for me.  Used to be that I worried about killing people by accident and about getting lost. Now I just worry about killing people by accident. 

2. Rachel and Denny were happy to be fetched.  (I have no idea why Denny’s laughing like that. Probably because Rachel is carrying her luggage.  Hard to tell.)

3. It is a 5-6 hour drive.  I drove, Rachel navigated and Denny amused herself in a variety of ways.   She had a chicken. (I don’t know why.)

She used Rachel’s headrest as a skein holder.

She made jokes about dysoning a bison.  (I think you have to be there for that one.)

4. We got to the US, and the border guard didn’t ask us a single question past "What is the purpose of your visit to the US"

This is probably because the answer was "We’re going to a cut pile weaving class!  We have three looms in the trunk and Sara Lamb is going to teach us how.  We spun our own yarns for it and knotted cut pile is how some of the oldest rugs in the world were made. We’re making bags though.   Have you read The Virgin’s Knot ? That’s what the girl in the book was doing.  Weaving and tying knots. You can do it with a rigid heddle loom, which is really why we can put three looms in the trunk, you know.. other looms are big… anyway …..
It’s, um… more interesting than it sounds."

Oddly, waved us right through.

5. We arrived and got to work right away, warping our looms on Friday night, then getting down to the beginning of our weaving on Saturday. 

Saturday just about exploded my brain.  We learned how to do soumak, twining, the turkish knot— it was crazy.  So many things. So. Many. I wove all day, and at the end all I had was this:

which is way more than it looks like because I did a sample first.  

6. The next day we learned cardweaving for the straps, and that, my friends, is frighteningly simple and cool.  I had no idea.

7. The only downside of the whole thing is that we trashed Beth’s shop.

8. Beth was the loveliest hostess,  charming, funny and able, and we all did some serious damage to our wallets. The best score though, was a gift from Beth.  In a moment of perfect serendipity, she’d purchased some silk at the SOAR where I didn’t make it to the market – and check this out.

Yup.  Meant to be mine.  To create an even more perfect moment.. .turns out that silk was dyed by… you guessed it.

Sara Lamb.

9. These dolls have nothing to do with anything, except Beth was selling them and I thought they were great.

10. Then we went home.  Denny enjoyed a yarnified backseat all the way home,

and I’m 1/3 of the way through my beautiful cut pile. 

How was your weekend?

Establishing a Craft Zone

Early in the morning, poking along getting ready to drive south with Denny and Rachel H for a Sara Lamb weaving class that we’ve been looking forward to for a while.  (We’re going to learn how to do cut pile weaving like on the cover of her book.) A road trip with the ladies is always fun, and we’ve spent the last few days gathering up tools that we don’t know anything about and putting them in bags to take with us.  (I shouldn’t say that.  Rachel H and I are gathering up things we don’t know anything about, Denny  is a competent and experienced weaver. She’s been helping us figure out what to get.)

We needed 12 dent reeds for our rigid heddle looms, C-clamps and nippers, #10 crochet cotton (Rachel got that.  Thank you Mary Maxim) and we needed small amounts of tapestry yarns, though Sara did say we could spin our own.  Yesterday I gathered my forces (such as they are. My forces have been all over the place lately) and I looked around for some fibre to spin, but what to do if you need small amounts of several colours?  The answer was here.

Tina bought this fleece from Francine at Rovings.  It’s beautiful.  I pulled one handful from each of several different areas…

I carded them,

I spun them…

and now Denny, Rachel H and I have some pretty little yarns to learn to do cut pile weaving with. Denny and Rachel H have been spinning too, so I can’t wait to see what grab bag of stuff we’ll have to work with.  In the meantime,   a roadtrip to get there. Rachel and I take turns driving and navigating, and Denny establishes a "Craft Zone" (It’s her invention, she gets to name it) with several craft stations in the backseat.  Spinning station, knitting station, weaving station – she gets them all set up and rotates through them as we drive.

The most remarkable and stunning thing about "the craft zone" isn’t how it looks (and it looks pretty remarkable and stunning) it is that we have never, ever been asked about this at the border.  Denny smiles up at the agent from a sea of wool and it’s related tools, beams at him or her and they look sort of stunned, check our passports and let us in to the US without a word about the drum carder in the back window.   Denny thinks it’s because they’re impressed. I think they’re dazzled.
Craft Zone.  It’s how we roll.

You know what I mean

I am just going to say it. I think it’s a problem to be loose, and I mostly mean that to do with knitting (although I sort of think the other kind of loose is wrong too, but really, who am I to tell you how your ethics should run.)

Let’s lay it out.  This is the fabulous Blackwater Abbey yarn. This is the fabulous book A Fine Fleece.  You should get it, it’s got lots of awesome stuff in it – I’ll be using it a whole lot.  That said, it appears that the super-clever and creative author (Lisa Lloyd) and I have a difference of opinion in terms of gauge. 

I have some preferences about gauge. I have some facts about gauge too, and those two things together have formed a concrete set of ideas about how I think things should be knit up.  I like things to be knit firmly and solidly.  I think that sock yarn should be knit up at least 32sts/10cm.  I like to see a worsted weight yarn at at least 20sts/10cm.  At least.

Garments with a loose gauge:

Knit up with lots of drape and feel softer than they might if it were tight. Knitting loosely is a good way to make garments really flowy. (That might not be a word.)
Take less yarn to knit an item – stitches tightly packed together mean more yarn per inch than stitches spread out.
Knit up more quickly- bigger needles mean the work goes faster. The fewer stitches per inch you are knitting, the fewer stitches you have to knit to accomplish your inches.

Garments with a firm gauge:

Hold their shape better. Fabric with less room to move, moves less.  Garments are less likely to "grow" with age, or to bag or sag.
Having less "room" in stitches, means that the stitches tend to look more uniform and tidy.
Last longer. Tightly knit, fibers can’t move against each other to cause friction, and are more durable. They pill and show wear less too.

All of these things are true, and can be positive or negative, depending on what you want, but as a general rule, I want more of the things in the firm category than the loose category, and I knit that way.  The big sell for me is that if I’m going to put all of that work into a garment, then I want it to last and look great as long as it can.  It’s not bad if you want other things, that’s what personal taste is all about, and there are times when I might choose to knit something loosely, when the fabric it makes suits me and what I want, and conversely, knitting to too firm a gauge can go too far.  While I’m yet to find socks I think are too tightly knit,  the kevlar-vest gauge of some traditional arans (coughalicestarmorecough) designed to turn wind and rain are a bit much for me and my modern wear.  I once swatched for a sweater that was so firm at the called for gauge that I thought for sure the best way to store the resulting sweater would be to simply take it off and stand it in a corner.

When I first looked at A Fine Fleece, I was delighted to see that it was a great match for the yarn that I’ve got- in fact, Blackwater Abbey worsted is the suggested yarn for two out of the three sweaters I was thinking about – but I was surprised at the suggested gauge.  16 stitches to 10cm/4" for this light worsted yarn? (If you haven’t met this yarn, for reference, it’s lighter than Cascade 220 or Paton’s Classic.) I’m not the sort to decide I don’t like something without trying though, so I swatched.

(A quick note about the purl stitches that appear random there: On a swatch I purl stitches to remind me what needles I was using. 5 purls means 5mm needles. That way I don’t end up forgetting which is which.  It’s something I started doing after the 48th time I told myself I would absolutely remember and didn’t.)

I did the bottom part of the swatch with 5mm needles (as suggested) and got the suggested gauge. 16sts/10cm. Then I did the top part of the swatch with 4.5mm needles and got something I like better, but is still too loose for my taste.  That’s 19sts to 10cm. Then I washed the swatch to make sure that the yarn didn’t bloom tremendously and change.. but it didn’t.

It’s hard to tell in the picture how loose these gauges are, so I took this one.

That’s a lot of daylight. That’s loose.  Really loose.  The swatch is drapey and soft, but it also moves all over the place, is really stretchy, and I can see that the loose gauge makes my stitches less uniform.  I can also tell that the resulting sweater is going to be a lot like that too, and right or wrong, my personal taste says that I’m going to find it less tailored and stable than I like.  (The irony that I’m talking about how I like things to be tailored and stable while wearing elastic waist jammie pants and a baggy tee shirt is not lost on me, but there you have me.)  Throughout the book, most projects are knit more loosely than I would like them, to varying degrees – There’s socks (knit in standard sock weight yarn) at 26sts to 10cm for example, which I know from experience I’m going to walk through pretty fast.  None of this is a deal breaker -Lisa has written what is otherwise a perfect book for me, with just about every project being something I’d love to wear…  Our tastes only depart in this one area- so I think the thing to do at this point is math.  Lots of math.  Maybe one of the bigger sizes could be knit at a tighter gauge to suit me? I’ll be looking for my calculator to re-jig.

To sum up- I believe Lisa Lloyd may be loose.  In the knitting way, you understand.  (I hope she takes that the right way.)

Now I have a limp

This weekend, this

(Fiber Optic Yarns, Pencil Roving, one of a kind colourway, 114g, 70% merino, 30% seacell)

became this,

which became this. 

(About 165m of a dk weight 2ply yarn.)


(Wellington Fibres, 60% mohair, 40% wool, "Marsh Grass" 215g)

became this:

which became this:

(About 360m of a dk weight 2ply yarn that I am pretty sure is a present for Denny.)

And this,

(STR lightweight in Happy go lucky)

became this,

(Sock Club pattern "Flabella")

which then became this.

(You can’t win ’em all.)

Ahead On The Feet

After coming in late on the first two months of my self imposed sock club, March roared in like a lion and turned out  to have plenty of time in it for socks and they were finished this morning, with time to spare, since (and I feel I must point this out)  is the morning of the 19th. 

That means that I finished twelve days ahead of schedule – and I even like the socks, which is extra awesome – and in Stephanieland, coming in twelve days ahead cancels out coming in late the other months, since even added together I was less than twelve days late, therefore I’m still early, even on average. 

Roger sock pattern from Knitspot, and Numma numma’s Toasty sock yarn in Nutella.

These are, like all the socks I’m knitting in the self-imposed sock club,  socks that are going into my long-range-planning box, perhaps to ease the strain at Christmas. If all goes well, I should be twelve pairs up by December, and that, my knitterly friends, makes me just about giddy.  I’ve always contributed to that box throughout the year, but not in this sort of a structured way, and I have high hopes that it’s going to pay off bigtime.  Hugetime.  I think that these twelve (theoretical) pairs of socks are going to bring joy and light into my holiday season in a way that makes me feel like laughing out loud right now, even though it’s nine months away.  (I’m a mother. I’ve waited nine months for something to pay off before. I don’t mind the wait.) 

I finished the legwarmers too (they’re drying)  I’ve ordered a book to make my next sweater, but it won’t arrive until Monday at best, and suddenly I feel at loose ends. I have the whole weekend and I can’t decide what to do.  I could:

A) Show a little backbone and go back to the Bohus. I let it slip because I’m at the boring stockinette part, but I could just suck it up.  I know it won’t knit itself, but it’s also not going anywhere.

B) Toss in an extra pair of socks.

C) Spin for two days.

D) Something else I didn’t think of yet.


More of a chronic condition

Tomorrow Joe’s going away with his mum.  They’ve been planning it for a while – off to the US to see the Grand Canyon and visit a relative, and Joe’s mum is psyched. (Joe is too – let’s be honest.)  Her kids – all four of them, travel with her in turns, and this trip has been set in stone for a while.  Since they leave in the morning, today they have to provide Homeland Security with "advance travel information" like your passport number and expiry date, and where you’ll be while you’re in the United States – and Joe being Joe, today was the day that he fetched his passport from his underwear drawer (where all right thinking people keep important documents) and was about to hop on the phone with his mum to give her the information, when he happened to glance at the expiry date of that wee book, and notice, much to his horror,  that it was a date in the past. 

When he recovered himself sufficiently and regained the power of speech, he called the passport office to see if anything could be done, and they said for him to come right down with all his paperwork, and see what could be sorted for him.  They warned him though, that getting a passport renewed on the same day was strictly a mission for "emergencies" and not to get his hopes up.  Passport Canada’s website advised that the 24 hour service (which really wasn’t even fast enough for us) was only available with proof of travel (got it) and that "Passport Canada will take appropriate action on a case-by-case basis."  Not too hopeful, since the last time either Joe or I checked, being a moron wasn’t really an emergency, but more of a chronic thing.

Down we went, and after the requisite wait, we found ourselves in front of a nice lady at the wicket, and Joe launched into his tale of woe.  How his stupid mistake was going to spoil his mum’s vacation, how he’d clearly taken leave of his senses, how upset his mum would be, how he really loved his mum and she was nice,  how, when she found out he hadn’t checked until this morning she was probably going to tell him his was stunned as a bat, and how he would disappoint her, how… how there just had to be a way (not to put it to bluntly)  how there had to be a way to keep him, a forty-one year old man, from getting into trouble with his mummy. 

The lady didn’t even blink.  Took the papers, screened Joe’s old passport, told Joe they’d do their best and to come back at close of day, one and a half hours later and see what happened.

We left the building, hitting his references on speed-dial to warn them the call would be coming and would they be so kind as to be sure and answer the phone, only to discover that Passport Canada had already called his references- before we were in the car.  Joe returned, ninety minutes later, to face the music, and he had already reconciled himself to the idea that it was unlikely that the fact that he was a bonehead was an emergency that could conquer a bureaucracy the size of the Canadian Government, and was already planning what he would say to his mum.

I called minutes later to ask him if he’d gotten it? Was it okay? Did it work? Was it possible- and all Joe said to me on the phone was "Steph, you’re not going to believe this.  I love this country.  Apparently the risk of disappointing your mum IS an emergency. I have a passport."

You could have knocked me over with a feather.  I imagined them scurrying around, all the people at the Passport Office, calling the right people, doing all this stuff, all of them saying "Oh, man, we’ve got to get this done or his mother’s going to kill him" and suddenly I figured out why it had worked.  Joe’s a nice man, and everybody has a mother.

Detroit Done

I’m gone and back to Detroit, and I had a great time.  You can say all you like about the place (and I know people do) but I tell you this,  the people are the best.  I had several experiences that were awesome, and they were all human related.  From the friendly, welcoming service everywhere I went, to the knitters and the folks I met every where I went,  Detroit’s people outshone it’s architecture (which is pretty awesome) and it’s casino’s. (I actually really hate casinos, so I don’t think it’s hard for me to have anybody outshine that.  Poor example.)

Things that were awesome.

1. The Detroit river. All full of ice, with Canada on the other side.

2. This big ex-ferris wheel, where instead of tearing it down, they covered it and turned it into a giant tire.  I don’t know why I loved it, but I did.

3. The city itself is very pretty, and if you look, there’s some wonderfully beautiful things.  This is the third floor of the  library where I spoke.

3. The knitters.

I’m pretty easy to please, no matter where I go I like the knitters, so I suppose this one was a big of a gimmee.  I loved the requisite first sock knitters:
Jennifer, Meg and Lisa, who went over the top and presented  a first sweater.

And there was Steven,

who not only knit his first socks, but knit them for me, which was pretty outstandingly touching.  (I’ve had a good look at them too… they’re perfect. They look nothing like first socks.  Darned good knitting, even though he had to put a rush on them and finished them right there.)

There were babies too, Amy and Moira and Sara and David – who looks so charming in his sleep that I forgive him for not waking up to amuse me.

Juliet knit me a carrot.  (Very charming vegetable.)

I got to meet SpillyJane (maker of fine mitten patterns) and Knitterella and French Press knits.

4. Awesome thing the 4th: This is Brenna.

Brenna is notable because she met me in the bathroom and admitted right there that she had successfully defeated the urge to Kinnear me while I was in there. I loved her instantly, for having the urge,  for admitting it and most of all… for resisting it.  Other people have not been so strong.

5.  I got two more washcloths,  a St. Patricks day one from Jason (who was wicked on Twitter while I was planning this) and a UP one from Kristine.

(UP is the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  I felt good that I knew that.)

6. I left my iphone in a cab, and the unbelievable cabbie picked it up, waited until I called it, answered and drove it to my hotel, then demanded nothing from me but a hug for bringing it. I gave him money anyway, but the point is that he was totally going to do if for no reason other than that he was decent.  I loved him.

7. Our lady Presbytera of the comments, who was my faithful native guide, and Alice, who showed up out of nowhere and was a pleasure to see, especially since she shared my love of the Olympics in grand style.

8. This.

Next time I’m going to Motown.  Thanks for being awesome Detroit!

Don’t fight it, it’ll only take longer

Today I am blogging from the airport, and I’m happily admitting that I’m not even trying not to be random.  I’m just going to let it roll. 

1. I am going to try and remember to stop and get American money before the Library tomorrow because it’s starting to look like the wee marketplace that they’re having before the talk is going to be cool.  Knitterella says so, and I believe her. 

2.   Someone emailed me and asked me what Sock Camp was.  Sock Camp is a brainchild of Tina over at Blue Moon, and I help her fulfill that vision. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)   Other than that, it sort of defies description.  Tina? Can you blog an answer?  How about a photographic answer? Anybody who’s been there wanna try and describe it?  It’s camp for grown-ups, with all sorts of fun and and great food- coupled together with serious learning opportunities for knitters who are really excited to learn more about socks in specific, and knitting/dyeing in general.  This year I’m teaching all about the elements of socks, swapping and choosing among them, I think Tina’s going to help knitters learn about dyeing and show them how to overdye skeins of yarn (great way to fix yarn that needs a little love) Ann Hanson is teaching sock design, Janel Laidman’s teaching stranded knitting, Sivia Harding is doing beads, and Cat Bordhi is doing how to invent stitch patterns.   

Janel, Cat, Tina and I are teaching at the first session, and Anne, Sivia, Tina and are are teaching at the second one.  (That second one is full, but there are still spots in the first one. You should come.  You would love it.)

I look forward to camp all year.  There’s camaraderie, it’s in a cool place (Port Ludlow) we do really fun things (scavenger hunt, knitters Jeopardy) we learn more than you can imagine, and we dream and learn big.  I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t love it, but I may be projecting on account of I look forward to it all year.  Other than at Sock Summit, it’s when I feel most cherished as a knitter.

3. I am making really good time on my March socks.  The random sock generating system this month picked me Numma Numma’s Toasty Yarn in Nutella,  and the pattern is Anne Hanson’s Roger. 

I feel fantastic about my odds of finishing before the month is over and I don’t even mind saying that out loud.

4. I am drinking the worst cup of coffee ever. 

It is fantastically horrific. As a matter of fact, I have been trying to figure out  three things. How it is possible for it to look like coffee when it clearly isn’t, how bad does coffee need to be before it’s a human rights violation,  and why I am  actually drinking it instead of trying to figure out how to fix whatever is wrong with the system that’s making it so that nobody else needs to suffer like this.  The pain should stop with me.


Rail Against Random

  I typed here for a good long time trying not to get random with it, and failed rather miserably.  I’m busting a move to get ready to go to Detroit this weekend, and I’ve just realized that my expectation that I’m going to manage everything on my to-do list is about as crazy as that impulse I get every now and then to start a sweater because I’m cold. Ever get that one? I get cold and then instead of going up to the sweater box and pulling a finished one out, I go stand in the stash like I’m going to be able to knit a sweater fast enough to solve the problem of being chilly right that minute. Magical thinking.  In the end, I decided that I am going to be a little random, and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. I have too many things to tell you that have nothing to do with each other.

1. After perusing around for appropriate prizes, I used a random number generator to choose three names from among all those who emailed me, the first takes Gold: 

A beautiful skein of handpainted cashmere from Handmaiden, here in Canada, which I’ll bundle together with a signed copy of Free-Range Knitter: The Yarn Harlot Writes Again (which is really my old book, now out in paperback, which is sort of cool since I never had a book come out in both hardcover and paperback before. It’s not in the store yet, I have some advance copies.) and be mailing off to Lexyjane, who didn’t finish her Olympic project due to an injury, but typified the Olympic spirit by dong her level best.


A signed copy of the book along with this skein of yarn, which is the new STR colourway for the Knitting Olympics called "going for gold", goes out to Lynn W. (Chalicewitch).


No picture, but Karen M will be telling me her favourite colour and getting a surprise along with the book, I hope she likes it. 

A thousand thanks to the almost 2000 knitters who sent an email. You guys are what makes it fun. 

2. The sweater I started may be terminally ill.  I’m considering taking it in to knit night tonight and seeing if anyone else feels the love.  Could be they’ll get a boatload of yarn to go home with.  I must have been drunk when I bought this.  It’s beautiful yarn, but it’s not me, and this is my second attempt to love it without any success at all.  Sometimes it’s a good idea to let it go before the resentment builds and you end up in a dishonest relationship with yarn.

3. Sadly, due to an absolutely unavoidable crappy thing, Anna Zilboorg won’t be able to join us to teach at session one of Sock Camp this year.  This is pretty much heartbreaking to me because she’s – well.  She’s Anna Zilboorg.  Let’s just leave it there.  Happily, the planet has provided a silver lining, which is that the inestimably fabulous Janel Laidman is going to come teach stranded colourwork for socks instead, and that’s pretty darned far beyond awesome.  There’s a few spots left if you think so too.  (I think session two might be full.)  I’m looking forward to it in a way that’s both unreasonable and unhealthy, but hey.  That’s sock camp.

4. I totally did finish my February self-imposed-sock-club kit, and even managed to do so before it was too far out of February. (March 3rd.) This month a drew a baggie containing STR lightweight in Jubilation, and a pattern that I’ve loved for a long time, the Feather and Fan socks from Socks Socks Socks

Over the years I’ve knit this pattern at least five times, and it never disappoints. (Except that I change the heel a bit.  I’ve got a thing.  I like ’em a certain way.)

That’s two months, two pairs of socks, and the goal to have an even dozen at the end of the year doesn’t seem all that crazypants.   

5. I bet you thought I didn’t do the February socks because of the Olympics.

6. Ha.

7. That would have had more emphasis if I had finished them in February, I know.