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Are you knitters shocked when you go through your stashes? I was. I thought I might have two or three skeins of yarn to take to the upcoming Knit Social Yarn Swap, but I found a lot more than that.

Should be fun – and I was happy to see that Alexa from Gourmet Crafter has a table and will be selling her lovely hand-dyed yarns.

As a teaser, for the really hardcore: that bag contains quince & co, Jared Flood’s own Shelter, a few Sweetgeorgia fibre club offerings (will I ever have time to spin again?), Cascade, undyed knit picks yarn, and unique hand-dyes from various North American destinations.

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Not quite dry yet…and I still can’t decide about those colours.

I knew I needed my 4mm needle for the upcoming Rock Island cast on, so even though I was using it for the Damson shawl, it was no big deal. I was going to put it on some waste yarn. Then something came over me: why not just finish Damson to free the needle?

I put in so many knitting hours this past week that I finally had to teach myself to knit continental to save my poor cramped right hand. I predict a Carson Demers workshop is in my future – the one on how to knit without hurting yourself.

Still trying to reserve judgement until I can wear it, but I’m fairly unenthusiastic about this one. The size is a bit small, which I knew going into it; usually I find more substantial shawls to be more stylish. Good thing my needle is free to start gargantuan Rock Island tonight.

The latest is that my computer is dying a slow death. There are new crashes and errors daily, each more frustrating than the last. I could give a planned obsolescence rant here, but the fact is my G5 has been a workhorse, and it’s a grandma as far as computers go. Unfortunately, it’s been so awesome until now that I wouldn’t consider replacing it with anything but another Mac – if my pocketbook allows it. Macs are so damned expensive! So I fumble along, delaying the inevitable. Following a particularly spectacular crash this afternoon, a little message at the bottom of the screen sadly stated ‘panic: We are hanging here…’

I know exactly what you mean.

So here’s my latest addition to the blogosphere, in case the computer won’t turn on tomorrow: using double-knitting for seamless starts.

I love the coppery colourway of Firefly yarn. It’s a viscose and linen blend and I covet it. But I remembered a linen purchase a year or so ago, and decided to use that up instead. Turns out it’s pure long-fibre hemp, not linen, but it’s a bright fuschia and not hard on the hands at all to knit. I had bought it with a pattern for a market bag and so cast on.

Here's what we're going for, but with a better seamless bottom

The pattern, though, is knit bottom up in the round, with the bottom cast on edges seamed together later. That’s dumb. Seaming’s no fun, and the bottom of the bag needs to be strong. So instead, I double-knit the bottom on straights, separated the layers onto a circular, and continued the bag in the round. Here’s how:

  1. Cast on an even number of stitches onto a straight or circular needle. Do not join in the round. I held two strands of yarn together for extra thickness.
  2. k1, sl1 pwise wyif (for the knit stitches to show on the outside), or
    k1, sl1 pwise wyib(for the purl stitches to show on the outside) to the end of the row.

    The double-knit stitches, all on a single straight needle

  3. Repeat step 2 as many rows as desired, making sure to knit an even number of rows.
  4. Redistribute stitches onto circular needle as follows: hold the points of your circular needle parallel. Slip the first stitch onto one circular needle point, slip the second stitch onto the other circular needle point. Repeat until all stitches are on the circular needle. You have now separated the two layers and have a seamless bag base.

    The straight needle on the left, the circular on the right: separating the double-knit rows into front and back

    The two layers, now separated and on the circular needle, ready to be joined in the round

  5. Join in the round and continue.

    The bag from the bottom: the cast-on (down the centre) is also the seam

That’s it – I’ll show you the bag when it’s finished!

crisp Habu fique

Did you know that it’s impossible to leave a fibre marketplace empty handed? Of course you did. To wrap up the Madrona experience, I feel compelled to document my souvenirs.

For some reason, the fique (a plant fibre from the pineapple family) above especially called to me, maybe because it’s the exact opposite of my usual favourite soft (crunchy) and smooth (stiff) yarns. My extended Colombian family tells me that fique is commonly used in South America for rope, bags, and sandals.

a small collection of Habu silks

I feel like you have to be a weaver to make the most of Habu’s outstanding range of fibres, but I’m determined to conduct experiments that will make the most of crisp 1-micron thick silk in knitwear.

madelinetosh in earl grey

No plans to even use the madelinetosh; I’ve admired her colours for a long time and bought this skein of tosh merino light in ‘earl grey’ just because it’s beautiful. Seriously tempted to just unwind the skein and hang it on the wall – the lightness and reflectivity in her colourways is amazing.

The Toots Leblanc soft soft soft merino/angora blend is destined for a hat. This company is amazing, making yarns so soft that they don’t even have to dye them. One feel and people were snapping them up left and right.

Toots Leblanc merino/angora

That’s it – I only took two classes but enjoyed seeing so many enthusiastic knitters in one place. I think next time I’ll focus on technique – I’m still trying to decide if a trip to Sock Summit is in the cards. I think the best place for me would be Carson Demers’ physiotherapy-oriented class Ergonomics for Knitters, and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee’s Knitting for Speed and Efficiency. Because who wouldn’t want to knit faster without developing a repetitive strain injury.

Enough with the pink already! I’m not a huge fan of the colour, it just happened this way.

These are the first pair of socks I’ve made, and they’re so cozy. I don’t recall ever having a pair of handknit socks; if I’d known how nice it is to have my feet wrapped up in these little gems, I’d have finished knitting them six months ago. Actually, they’re a tiny bit too large, so the next pair will be made with one size smaller needles.

My wise spinning teacher, Irene, once warned me to always knit socks with yarn that has some nylon content, for strength. I don’t normally endorse synthetics but I don’t want to wear holes in my socks by next week. So this will be my test – the SweetGeorgia yarn I’ve used has 20% nylon. I might try to make a pair in the future with a yarn that has some silk content; silk is tough and I suspect it might be just as effective as nylon.

Pattern: Retro Rib Socks by Evelyn Clark (ravelry link here)
Yarn: SweetGeorgia Tough Love Sock (80% superwash wool, 20% nylon)

I’ve admired Habu yarns for a few years now. Habu, a Japanese company, makes possibly the most interesting yarns around: silk and stainless steel, linen ‘paper’, cotton, cashmere, and mohair…and in amazingly harmonious colours and neutrals. But I’ve never knit anything with it, maybe because it seems more art object than yarn.

knit habu by Vanessa at Coloursknits

L. and I visited Urban Yarns last night for a presentation by Takako of Habu Textiles. I had no idea, but apparently Japanese knitting instructions are often very different from North American and European instructions – so different that Takako gave a little workshop on how to read them! The ingenious little diagrams, often fitting on just one page, contain nearly all the information you need to knit the pattern, instead of long pages of wordy instructions. I think the Japanese approach to knitting is a bit different in general; the finer details (such as which increase or decrease to use, or where to put it in the row) are left to the knitter. It’s like using a road map instead of a chirpy GPS – you choose your own route and get there however you like.

Washi & tsumugi silk coat from Hand-Knit Works by Setsuko Torii

The yarn seems to represent its own aesthetic, with Habu patterns often having a distinctive architectural look that emphasizes texture and drape. It turns out, after I watched a dozen excited women trying on the many samples that Takako brought with her, that this texture and drape make for almost universally flattering fits. We were a good-looking bunch, walking around the store in the Habu garments! Of course I didn’t take my camera. But I think I may try the Arcus pullover soon…

Arcus Pullover by Olga Buraya-Kefelian. Image from ori ami knits

A moth fluttered through the house a few days ago. Not the pretty butterfly kind, but the fibre-eating kind. I had already been methodically bagging and freezing my yarns, then stuffing them in storage bins, but this sped me right up. I’m almost done now, and rediscovered a skein of sweetgeorgia sock yarn in the process.

So that’s how my knitting hiatus ended, with a sock in a kind of waffle stitch pattern that’s easy to remember, so I can sit on the balcony sipping iced tea while I knit. It’s been a strange & wonderful & stressful two months, so it’s nice to get back to the inner calm of handcrafts.

What’s up this week? At first I thought I had nothing to post about, until I scrolled though the photos on my camera.

There’s the photo of the new batch of Big Wool I purchased in a lovely orange. Sorry to be secretive, but I promise I’ll talk about the ongoing Big Wool project soon…

There were lots of photos from a tree nursery tour last week. In my other life, as you may know, I’m a landscape designer. The best part of the job is looking at plants – you know, the equivalent of a knitter getting to tour the Rowan design studio, maybe?

I’m trying to use my camera more – to take it with me to avoid those ‘I wish I had a camera right now’ moments – especially since I had a brief panic where I thought I had broken it. I love this camera; I don’t think you can buy the Nikon D40 new anymore (in Canada, anyway), and the D3000 that replaced it is apparently terrible. So when I realized it was working just fine, I felt a new-found appreciation for my little camera. More knitting photos coming soon!

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