Happy Stitches

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Narrowboat Adventures (and Beyond!): Weeks Three and Four September 28, 2017

The time is flying by and suddenly, Week 3 has morphed into Week 4 and I am back in North America!

I won’t be on this continent for long, though.  I’m spending the week with my Adventure Knitters in beautiful Nelson, British Columbia.  More on that later…

approachingChester

approaching Chester in the fog

 

Into our 3rd week, we were settling into a slightly more leisurely pace.
Leaves were beginning to fall from some trees. On one lovely evening, we tied up under an oak tree and spent the night listening to the staccato machine-gun style rattle of acorns with every gust of wind. Our lesson: on nights when there are strong winds forecast, we won’t plan to moor under any type of tree in case of larger things than acorns breaking loose! 
LastDayonQueenBeeWorkingTheLocks

my last day on the Queen Bee, working the locks

For the last two weeks on the boat we’d been setting our sights on reaching Ellesmere Port or Chester on September 20th – not a tall order by car, but on a narrowboat (traveling at walking pace) you have to allow time for lock delays or other unexpected happenings and you can’t just hurry up.
canaltochesterlocks

Chester Locks

 I had a train to catch that Wednesday to get to Heathrow – hard to take a break from your journey, but needs must! John’s plan was to visit his mum and clean and do laundry. We also planned to offload any summer or unwanted gear – anything for space.
We had gradually been learning how long we can go without taking on potable water, fuel, and how to judge the holding tank gauge for just-in-time pumpouts! Finding garbage drop offs can prove challenging, the Canals and River Trust have been removing skips from some of the watering points …. there is a quite a bit of fly tipping in evidence under the railway bridges.
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all moored up, Ellesmere Port

We’d taken Queen Bee to Ellesmere Port National Waterways Museum, to moor up whilst I’m away. The museum is situated on a basin accessed by a couple of locks and offers a snug protected berth.  In fact, we’ve become part of the exhibit!  Gongoozlers were busy taking pics as we came through the locks. We offloaded bin bags full of laundry  and excess gear.  John is taking the opportunity to stock up with dry goods and tonic water, which we constantly run out of! 
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Chester Train Station

I was prepared with clothing and a small carry on case to be able to leave the boat as we passed through Chester and walk to the railway station.
As it happened we had a day in hand and decided to moor up Queen Bee and rent a car (had to walk to get that), and visit my mother in law for a night before my departure.
PlanesTrainsAutomobiles

All my connections worked and I had a really good journey to BC, using boat, car, train, tube, taxi, plane, feet for transport!

Next thing I knew, I was on my way to Nelson.
I was dropped at Chester station and caught a train to London. This was a little like narrowboating in reverse, as the train line frequently criss crossed the canal that I had spent the previous 2 weeks on – it looked very tranquil on the cut. 
This felt cruel, having chugged alongside train tracks on many occasions over the previous couple of weeks.  Now I found myself on a train, catching glimpses  of the canal. It all looked so peaceful, rather like looking at a model scene. I saw the locks we’d recently been through and several boats on the move.  I couldn’t exactly identify them without a map and they look so different from inside a train.

I then caught the tube across London during rush hour to get to Heathrow.
Next I had to find the hotel that I had booked! Couldn’t locate the shuttle buses so took a taxi. In the morning I was successful in catching a bus back to LHR and flew to Vancouver.
Here I was picked up by Judy, my Adventure Knitting co-conspirator, and conveyed to a very welcome bed and hot shower. We set off early the next morning on the 10 hour up-and-down car journey to Nelson, crossing several mountain ranges. The huge trees and craggy mountains were quite a contrast to the flatness of canal travel.

And now that I am here, let the Adventure Knitting begin!

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I felt like I’d just taken part in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, but here I am in Nelson, BC!

An afterthought…

My Almost Saintly Socks is our half-price pattern of the week!
An entertaining project for the ardent sock knitter, for those in search of an interesting foot-suntan pattern, or those with naturally hot feet! The scallop holes stitch pattern sets off hand-painted yarns beautifully.
The Almost Saintly Socks pattern is half-price ($4.50) until October 3!

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Half-price pattern of the week!

 

 

 

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The Mardi Gras DK Blanket July 23, 2017

The Mardi Gras DK Blanket is only the second of Lucy’s double-knit blankets that we’ve featured as our 1/2price pattern of the week and it’s a real beauty!

Lucy Neatby's Mardi Gras DK Blanket

 

 

 

A spectacularly beautiful and warm double-layer blanket, this engaging knit will hold your interest. The linear nature of the motifs makes the pattern easy to follow, and any portion may be used on projects of all sizes, from coaster to blanket. Small ones are great fun, but a blanket is lovely to knit on; a dependable companion to work on whenever you need it.

Lucy’s Mardi Gras Blanket was knit using Malabrigo Yarn, but any fingering-weight yarn will suit this project. This pattern features detailed written descriptions, as well as diagrams and graphs, as well as PatternGenius and Stitch-map-style charts!

 

 

Here is Part 1 of the Circular Tubular CO method that Lucy uses to begin top-down double-knit hats and all of her DK blankets. It’s so elegant!  See Lucy’s  free YouTube Channel for parts 2 and 3!

 

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Some of you may remember this blanket from our last Pattern-In-Progress Club: it’s hard to believe the official pattern was released over a year ago!

 

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The Mardi Gras DK Blanket is on sale until July 26!

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Domino Baby Blanket June 25, 2017

Filed under: Pattern highlight,Patterns,Sale — happystitches @ 09:51
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Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket

 

Have you checked out this week’s sale pattern? Lucy’s Domino Baby Blanket is a straightforward project, resulting in a practical gift with serious heirloom pretensions, suitable for treasures of all ages, newborn to sage.

Perfect carry-around knitting, this blanket may be worked from a single yarn, several yarns or from small quantities of many colours of similar weight yarns. It looks ten times as much work as it is, making it one of those high-yield-of-elegance-per-unit-effort projects. This versatile pattern can be knit using any yarn weight.

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The Domino Baby Blanket pattern is half-price ($4.50 CAD) until June 28!

 

The Fiesta Family – Flying Swallows Stitch May 7, 2015

Fiesta Vest  Photo by Pauline Rook

Fiesta Vest
Photo by Pauline Rook

I’m always interested to see which garments in my traveling trunk show catch people’s attention. This trip it was particularly the Fiesta Vest. I was teaching buttonholes and bands, thus had the vest with me. I ended up explaining this stitch many times!

So here it is for you too.

This was the stitch I developed first for my Fiesta Feet Socks (which are on sale this week).

As I enjoyed it so much, I then went on to use it in the Fiesta Mittens and Fiesta Stocking patterns.

Do take time to read the comments as various aspects of this stitch are discussed.

Do not attempt to work this stitch flat, unless you enjoy WS row decreases and cutting your yarn frequently!

Worked in the round with a steek, you’ll have much more fun.

 

A Little Excursion into Fox Paws April 26, 2015

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws designed by Xandy Peters

Fox Paws is a crazily unique design by Xandy Peters. I’ve long regarded knitting a creation from another designer as an excursion into their brain. It’s often an interesting journey. In this case, it resembled an extremely enjoyable potholing or spelunking trip.

My first acquaintance with Fox Paws was whilst on my way to speak to the Snohomish Guild in Washington. My kindly and thoughtful drivers factored in time to stop at a beautiful yarn store, Serial Knitters, should the traffic gods be with us. They were. The Fox Paws wrap displayed in the window stopped my in my tracks before I even entered. It was the most striking, beautiful and un-knitting-like piece of knitting I have ever seen.

It was extraordinary. I began to hear a little of its story: about the store knitalong and the fact that the Yarn Harlot had knit one fairly recently.

After Madrona, I headed east for some housebound winter hibernation and resolved to give this design a whirl. I don’t usually have much time for recreational knitting, it takes away from my available time to work on the designs I have brewing. I purchased Xandy’s pattern on Ravelry anyway (I sometimes just buy a pattern as a vote of support for the designer despite knowing I may never knit it. I file it under Retirement Projects).  At this point, I had been happily chugging away at my Blossom blanket for the last six months, and the rounds were a merry 1400+ sts in Kauni. Although I love Kauni, it is not the most satin soft of yarns. My hands were craving a bit of variety, and some indulgence with Cat’s Pajamas was very alluring. Done deal. I was curious.

I paused to read Steph’s blog post.  Her  knitting adventures always make for great reading, and she had dropped a few cryptic remarks about vows of silence and the k5togs(among others!) when I saw her at Madrona . A long road trip loomed, the perfect time for some recreational knitting. I would leaven the Blossom with the Fox Paws. Yarns were packed, always a last minute grab and go for me. I leapt in blind.

The first mistake I made was that I changed colour straight after casting on (reading error on my part), but I actually like it and copied it for the bind off. At first, I kept losing my place in the row (this is not a design to allow your attention to even momentarily wander) and this work is not easy to unknit or count. I quickly learned not to embark on a row unless I could go the whole way. Fortunately, the Trans Canada Highway across New Brunswick is singularly unexciting.  I was fine unless my driver had the temerity to try to engage me in conversation. I did find it a bit tricky to read the multi-line rows, it took total concentration to keep track of where I was and how many times I had repeated an action. This would have been a great time to make an audio pattern. (Speak the row out at knitting speed and record it on your phone. Play it back through your ear bud as you knit: no need to take your eyes off the work).

Throughout the growth of the first repeat, I found myself marveling at Xandy’s creativity and cunning (also wondering what mind-altering concoction she must have been ingesting at the time). This is a superbly clever design. There is an excellent logic to the design: the vertical stacks of stitches that make the fingers and the stalks have a pleasing consistency along the same row. It really helps if you are familiar with the k1-O-k1 increase before you begin (one of my favourite increases). The clumps of extra stitches do feel a little awkward on the needle, and the frequent slipping of two stitches back to the left-hand takes a little practice (you will get plenty). The joining method, which is heralded by the k5tog, is dependable and easy to remember once you have done a couple. The pattern is made additionally challenging because the pattern action rows (believe me this is James Bond kind of knitting action) take place on WS rows. This makes it harder to keep your bearings.

This is NOT take it to the guild evening kind of knitting.

In fact, peaceful music without lyrics is about all I could handle.  I limited myself to one pattern row per knitting session, and there were times when that was enough! Fox Paws is quite challenging but might well change the way you think about knitting stitches. I can only imagine the considerable work it took to design and write this pattern, Xandy has done a great job, hats off to her!

Cat's Pajamas Solids

The  Cat’s Pajamas colours that I used were: Lime, Hot Pink, Mango, Turquoise and Damson

If I were to make another Fox Paws, I would:

#1 Use wood or bamboo needles with lace tips: Addi lace or Hiya Hiya sharps.

#2 Once I have chosen the colours and designated them A – E, I would take the time to colour code the table of colours to save confusion.

#3 Practice the k1-O-k1 increase and the k5tog decrease. This decrease isn’t too bad if you slide all 5 stitches onto the taper of the left needle before attempting to stuff the second needle into them. Lace needles would help a lot.

#4 Develop a personal shorthand diagram for each pattern row.  I’d reduce the stacks of stitches to an annotation of stack 3 or stack 2 and reduce the joining method to  dec+2 or dec+3. This is not something the designer could or should do for you. It’s about how you picture it. In my mind this would be a combination of diagram and text.

#5  Read the knitting. Pay attention to the stacking of the double decreases (at the junction between repeats), if they don’t line up vertically every alternate row, something has gone wrong.  The k1-O-k1 increase at the top of the fingers should be  over the central stitch. It’s hard to fudge the numbers if they are off and this pattern is NOT easy to un-knit.

#6 Keep the stitches nearer the tips of the needles than usual.

#7 And lastly, I would NOT rely on stitch counting – it’s very hard to do and there are an awful lot of them on some rows!

All in all, this design is well worth the effort, and the results are just fabulous!

Happy Stitches!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

Air Conditioned Mittens from A Little Book of BIG Holes for Hand-knitters!

As a side note: our Flash Sale on Bundles has been extended until Thursday!  Bundles are collections of patterns and other digital products which will be stored in your Notebook upon purchase.  Take a look, you might find something to inspire you!

 

Dare to compare: What technique is right for you? March 25, 2015

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

A pair of matching Paradoxical mittens.

Here’s a Knitting Hint: Dare to compare! When you are debating with yourself about the very best way to hold your yarns or knit up stitches, the most suitable decrease or buttonhole, or any of the other myriad of choices we face as engaged knitters, take a little time to play. Try the various methods open to you. Practice them in close proximity so you can directly compare the results.

Private side comparison of Paradoxical mittens swatch

Private side comparison of two Paradoxical mittens.

Paradoxical Mittens: swatch

Public side comparison of the same two Paradoxical mittens: note the difference in colour dominance

Making a small swatch, looking at it, ripping it out and then redoing it another way won’t give you the necessary comparison. It is not a truly useful experiment.

The pictures above demonstrate an extreme example of colour or stitch dominance, shown using my Paradoxical Mittens pattern. The samples show identical mittens – but one was worked with the dark yarn as the contrast (held in left hand), while the other was worked with the yarns held the other way.  What incredibly different results!   Either one would look fine on its own, but they don’t work as a pair. As you see, the difference is not evident unless we compare them side by side. (By the way, there is no need to work a whole experimental mitten, a modest swatch will usually do nicely!)

I love it when at workshops the cry goes up: “My goodness, you are right!”  It’s not that I’m on a power trip, wanting everyone to do things my way, but I do like knitters to explore their options and come to their own conclusions.  If it happens to be the same one I reached, that’s cool, but it doesn’t have to be.  Different techniques work differently for different people.  Occasionally, there is no ‘right’ answer — only the one best suited to you, your yarn and your knitting circumstances.  Experimenting with the options available to you is fun and educational: that’s why I included the small “Challenge Swatches” at the end of each chapter in my Cool Knitters Finish in Style book, inviting you to try a variety of methods and draw your own conclusions. Be curious: play with your stitches, make them smile!

Paradoxical Mittens

Paradoxical Mittens: feeling right at home on Big Tancook Island!

The Paradoxical Mittens are on sale for half-price this week only!  Before you begin your project, try working with the dark yarn as the contrast in one swatch and the light yarn as contrast in another.  See the difference?

 

The Storm Mountain DK Hat March 19, 2015

Storm Mountain DK Hat

The Storm Mountain Hat features built-in insulating air spaces!

Nova Scotians are digging out after yet another massive storm, with some parts of the province having received upwards of 50cm of snow.  Add to that the 70km/hr winds, and most of us  are now tunneling through drifts much taller than ourselves!

Sometimes the best solution to life’s little problems is to sit back, pull out some yarn and needles, and start a new knitting project. With that in mind, and as a small consolation to our Nova Scotian friends, we’ve decided to offer the aptly named Storm Mountain DK Hat for only $3.50 (half-price) this week!

This warm double-layer hat has built-in insulating air spaces between the layers. The hat uses two yarns: the inner yarn is the only one that touches the head and occasionally appears on the public side of the hat. The exterior colour only ever appears on the outside of the hat. The air spaces are created by working more rounds on the exterior fabric than on the interior layer.
We added a bonus to the updated pattern a few months ago, which features an alternate top I like to call the Space Cadet option!

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat's Pajamas Yarn

The Space Cadet Topper option will work for any size Storm Mountain Hat you choose to knit: here it is on a baby-siazed version, knit with my Cat’s Pajamas Yarn

Wishing you Happy Stormy Stitches!

 

 
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