Thursday, December 30, 2010

There's Still Time

Since several people offered, and 4 more military helmet liners arrived at the shop, we found a way to get more hats to Afghanistan!

Apparently, Canada Post will ship to the military for free until January 7, so if you'd like to knit a few more of these quick and simple hats, please bring them in by Thursday, January 6. We'll get them boxed up and sent on their way to our Canadian soldiers.

If you are coming late to this party, remember that one ball of Galway will make two helmet liners. The free pattern can be picked up at Little Red Mitten.

OR's a quick synopsis of the pattern:

5mm, 16 inch circular needle and 5mm double pointed needles
worsted weight, 100% wool such as Galway
Tension: 18 sts over 4 inches

Cast on 90 sts, join in round being careful not to twist stitches.
Work 4 rounds in *K1, p1* rib.
On 5th round, increase one stitch. (91 sts)
Knit in round until there are 4 inches of stocking stitch above ribbing.

*K11, k2tog* to end of round. Knit one round even.
*K10, k2tog* to end of round. Knit one round even.
*K9, k2tog* to end of round. Knit one round even.
Continue decreasing 7 sts per round (as above) with one fewer stitch between each decrease, alternating with one even round, until 49 sts remain, or this round:*K5, k2tog* to end of round.

Do not work even rounds between the rest of the decrease rounds.
Continue decreasing 7 sts per round until 7 sts remain.
Cut yarn, thread needle, run through remaining stitches, pull tight and weave in ends.

Peaceful knitting!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Don Cherry

If you watched the news on Christmas Day, you may have seen Don Cherry visiting with our soldiers. Well, the guy in the Leafs jersey just happens to be Catherine's brother, Darryl - he's the one who will get the 51 helmet liners that we knitted. Darryl told her that lots of guys were waiting anxiously for the hats and he was thrilled that there were so many coming his way.

While speeches were going on, Darryl slipped away and put on his Leafs jersey. (His fellow soldiers got a good chuckle out of this, thinking that Darryl would be in big trouble for being out of uniform.) Of course, Don Cherry noticed him ...and called him up to stand beside him while he spoke to the crowd.

Darryl wrote, "It was sweet. I got him to sign my jersey, which was awesome. So that was my Christmas, you see it was pretty good after all."

* * * * *

Hoping your Christmas was peaceful and memorable.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

We Knitted Our Bit

... Apparently, lots of Little Red Mitten customers.
You knitted 51 helmet liners for our troops overseas!!!
Here's Catherine with an armful of hats.
Her brother received ten hats earlier this year while serving in Afghanistan and
is looking forward to sharing these warm tokens of support from home.
Thanks for your generosity.
Fleece on earth, good wool to all.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Knitting ...pass it on.

Some special time with needles and yarn ...and voila - a friendly little finger puppet to play with.
When a child works with her hands, there is a lot going on: brain development, eye-hand coordination, abstract thinking skills, interaction with others, and FUN!
Make time to play,
this holiday.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

If I follow the pattern ....

Another class, another window into a knitter's thoughts.

After a discussion about tension/gauge, this question arose: "So even if I follow the pattern exactly, it still might not turn out?"

Well ...following the pattern means many things. Unfortunately, it's more than just getting the knits and purls in the right place. Perhaps the most important part of following the pattern is getting the same tension or gauge. Knitting a swatch and counting the stitches to check your tension is IMPORTANT.

Check out these examples:

  • Imagine that you are knitting a sweater in the round. You have a pattern for a 40 inch sweater that has you cast on 200 stitches. The tension is 20 sts over 4 inches ...or 5 sts per inch. (200/5=40)
  • But what if you choose a too-thick yarn, needles that are too big, or you knit loosely? If your tension is 16 sts over 4 inches ...or 4 sts per inch, you are about to create a 50 inch sweater! (200/4=50)
  • On the other end of the spectrum, if you've chosen a fine yarn or small needles, or you are a tight knitter, you might get 24 sts over 4 inches ...or 6 sts per inch and end up with a 33 inch sweater. (200/6=33) Surprise!!!

Lastly, you could knit your tension swatch perfectly. Ahhhhh.

After making progress on the sweater and getting comfortable with the pattern, you might relax (or stress out about something) and cause your tension to change.

So, it really is a great idea to check your tension regularly - just get out your ruler and count those stitches.

Does this take the fun out of your knitting? Maybe a bit, but at least you will be following the pattern exactly, and you'll get the results that you want without the nasty surprises.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cast Slipper

Let's hope this fits over my daughter's cast!

I hope the tie will keep it on ...'cause it's cold in Thunder Bay!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


My 27-year-old daughter is very independent. Perhaps too independent.
On Saturday afternoon, we got an email saying that she had broken her ankle (on Friday night)and was going into surgery soon. By the way, I do remember teaching her how to use the phone, but apparently, it didn't 'take'.
So here we are in St. Thomas, an 18-hour drive from our injured baby in Thunder Bay, and we can't reach her for more information. The hospital will only say that, yes, she is in surgery. Seven hours later, we finally get through to her and learn that all is well.
There is now a pin holding her together, but she will likely leave the hospital the next day. She'll go back to her apartment, where she lives on her own, to the 2nd floor of a house, up the narrow stairs with a turn at the top ...and a railing that keeps falling off.
So she's snug in her apartment now ...and thinking she should go to work in the next day or two.
I wonder just how much snow there is in Thunder Bay right now. It's -22C and her toes are bare!

So my job is to look after her in any way I can. Two strands of Lamb's Pride Bulky on a 6mm needle -this thing is a three-eighths of an inch thick. At this point, this is all I can do:

It will look like this:

...only much bigger.

Do you think it will fit?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

"The Easiest Thing to do...."

While teaching a sock class recently, an outgoing, funny and forthright new-this-year knitter had this to say:

"The easiest thing to do in knitting is to make a mistake."

Yikes! My first thought was to protect the other knitters from this sacrilege. How will they ever hope to continue if this is all they have to look forward to!?!?!?!? ...and then I smiled. She was right. "Knit happens."

As a young knitter, I was afraid to fix mistakes. I didn't understand what I was doing with yarn and needles and never stopped to analyse what was happening under my nose. If I attempted a correction, I was sure that my whole project would unravel down to the beginning and I would be a failure. I handed everything over to my Mom and she would magically and quickly put everything right again. It wasn't until I read the book, The Sweater Workshop, by J. Fee that I got over this hump ...and that is when I really started to love knitting.

Learning to fix mistakes is IMPORTANT. While some knitters plough ahead, leaving their mistakes because they just aren't sure how to fix them, others stop in their tracks when they come to a roadblock in their knitting, afraid to go forward or back. A few simple tricks can completely change the way you feel about knitting.

Take a class, read a book, watch a video, ask questions, dedicate some yarn and needles to experimenting. Don't be afraid - it's just sticks and string!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Set yourself free!

"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
...Scott Adams

It's true. Creativity is about experimenting, playing, exploring, taking a chance, seeing if some little trick will give you the results you are looking for. There are so many options with knitting that there can be something new to learn with each project. As long as you are willing to make a few wrong turns, your destination can be a wonderful, original surprise.

Feel free ...let yourself play!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Knit Your Bit

The response has been strong. Little Red Mitten knitters are working on helmet liners for our soldiers. There are already 4 new hats hanging on our Christmas tree, a fifth hat sitting inspiringly beside the free pattern, and several unfinished hats popping out of knitting bags everywhere ...or at least, within driving distance of The Mitten.

Thanks to my daughter, Sara, for sending this great photo!
Catherine S. is planning a quick trip from Woodstock on Friday to pick up our first batch of helmet liners. She will send them in a parcel to her brother so that he can share with other soldiers in Afghanistan. I imagine that the weather is pretty cold there already - it warms my heart to know we are sending a wee bit of comfort to our fellow Canadians.

Our next deadline will be Dec. 17. The season of giving just got busier :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Sheep in Dog's Clothing

Summer has arrived. No, not the season, but a new, enthusiastic knitter named Summer. She has crocheted for 16 years (more than half of her life) but now she seems to be smitten with knittin'.
Trying to dress a Teacup Chihuahua for winter was her challenge. She bought a book, yarn and needles, asked questions, problem solved and went for it! Her are the results:

Doesn't Shaun the Sheep look handsome?

Monday, November 15, 2010

A Bit of a Rant

Here is an excerpt from my 'talk' to our local University Women's Club last week:

...Gandhi practiced non-violent, non-cooperative protest: he convinced people to spin and weave their own clothes so that British factories would be idle and his people would have rewarding employment.

If we look at North America, spinning and weaving mills were an important part of the fabric of our lives. Everyone knew someone who spun or wove. There was a connection and an understanding about the process ...and about the value of the process. We had control over how we clothed ourselves, and we paid our neighbours to do it. Now, most mills have sold off their machinery to 'developing' countries. We no longer understand or value the skills and the labour that go into the necessities of our lives. Important knowledge and skills are disappearing. Perhaps, like Gandhi, we should be taking back control and making or purchasing locally made items.

With the industrial revolution, factories ended the need for hand knitting, ...but knitters continue to knit. They knit for the love of the craft, for the soothing benefits, for the chance to be creative, for the problem solving and design challenges, for the excuse to commune with friends ...and for a beautiful custom made item.

Knitting, spinning and weaving are "arts with a purpose."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Slow Cloth Movement

When I look at the date of my last blog posting, I realize that I need some "slow" in my life. There needs to be more time in my day to create ...and enjoy the feel of fibre in my hands.

This seemed to be the theme of my reading this month. Both Handwoven, (Nov./Dec. 2010) by Interweave, and the Wheel, (Issue 22) by Ashford, had articles about the "Slow Cloth" movement. This posting borrows heavily from these magazines.

The slow cloth idea was developed by Elaine Lipson with the philosophy that, "It's all about the process." As she watched crafting gain popularity, often with little attention given to quality or skill, she offered an alternative to that mindset.

She identified several basic principles important to her philosophy:
  • We should experience joy in the process.
  • We should have moments of peace while we work, moments of contemplation.
  • We should honour skill, not instant gratification.
  • We should honour diversity and the multicultural history of our textiles.
  • We should honour teachers and our long lineage of creativity.
  • We should encourage sustainability and the wise use of our resources.
  • We should celebrate quality, beauty, community and personal expression.

I think I'll hurry up and slow down. This afternoon, I will take time to enjoy creating with fibre. I will work for the love of it, for the soothing benefits and take advantage of this time to be creative. I hope that you can, too.

You can read more about slow cloth ideas at Elaine's blog:

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Wheel That's Been Around the Block

No, I'm not talking about an antique wheel, or a wheel that has spun thousands of skeins of yarn. This wheel has not only spun miles of fibre, but it has travelled many a bumpy path. It has transported its treadler to imaginary and real life places. And it has had a second chance at a new and rewarding life.

Thanks to Jill, a visitor at our regular spinning circle, we all had a chance to smile and wonder at this intriguing machine while we worked away at our usual wheels and spindles.

Jill, a former spinning teacher, met many people who wanted to spin but couldn't afford a wheel. To get them started, she fashioned spinning wheels from treadle sewing machines, other found items and actual bobbins and flyers.

As a curator at a small museum near Hanover and Owen Sound, she scrounged parts and supplies and the labour of handy people to create this tool. Her goal was to catch the attention of children and to inspire them to try their hands at spinning ...and many did.

Yup! This 'tired' wheel's been around the block a few times :)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Last week it was your turn but this week it was mine.

K-W Knitter's Fair was a blast last week. Many, many friendly knitters dropped by to chat, fondle and drool. They shopped 'til they dropped and, I'm sure, saw lots of inspiring projects, fibres and tools. At the end of the day when we started packing up, I realized that I had missed my chance to wander and touch and dream. And I was just a bit envious ...sigh

It is Sunday next and I'm smiling in my comfy chair gazing at "my" yarn purchases, (oops! - yarns for the shop). Today was the first annual Knit Trade, a chance for Canadian retailers to shop with mostly Canadian wholesalers. And I got to chat, fondle, drool ...and learn much more about these creative and inspiring entrepreneurs.
Now, I bet you're feeling a bit envious ...

Thank you, Cabin Fever, for making this happen.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Respect for Knitters

It seems that this topic has touched a nerve. Apparently, many local knitters just don't get much respect from non-knitters.

This week, I heard several comments from customers who experience knitter discrimination on a regular basis. They are getting tired of hearing, "What are you knitting, old lady?" ...when we are anything but old. 'Knitting' and 'old' do not automatically go together. And if they are lumped together, it should be in a complimentary way that shows respect to those who have practiced their skills for many years, and who can now practically knit in their sleep; respect for those who want to create something out of mere sticks and string, passing skills from one generation to the next.

....stepping down off my soapbox

Our list of non-traditional jobs/careers for knitters has grown. One reader sent the following to me by email:
"My late husband was an expert knitter, having been taught by his mother when he was ten years old and a new brother arrived in the family. He started knitting baby clothes. He was an electrical engineer and designer by trade and in later years, when health forced him to give up his career, he took up knitting again, and began designing and knitting his own sweaters - Aran knits, and many other styles, with matching caps. Whenever we were out together and someone admired his sweater and asked if his wife had knit it for him, I would proudly declare, "No, he designed and knit that for himself." When he passed away in 2004, I buried him in one of his favourite sweaters, a beautiful Aran cardigan.

In the early 1990's,we had a small knitting business and Neil began teaching knitting. We would gather together several (usually women and their family and friends) who wanted to learn to knit and one of them would hold the classes at her home. He would go there once a week and teach them to knit a sweater. I was the only wife I knew whose husband would go out in an evening with five to six women and I would not be the least bit concerned."
London, ON

Knitters really are an interesting and varied group - no stereotypes here!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Do you rock?

How do you feel about the perception that we knitters are all "rocking chair grannies" with nothing better to do?

How do you react when you hear knitter-derogatory comments such as:

You're not old enough to knit.
My grandmother knits.
I don't have time to knit.
I don't have the patience to knit.
So you went to a knitting group. How old were they? You must have been the youngest one there. There were younger ones there - were they special?
Where's your rocking chair?

These comments get under my skin, so when Jolyn told me about a customer who is a helicopter pilot, we started listing the unusual or untraditional careers that our customers have enjoyed. In a matter of minutes, we added: a helicopter mechanic, an electrician, a dump truck driver, an artist, an advertising exec, an elementary school principal, numerous teachers and nurses, a doula, a doctor, a Bed & Breakfast operator, a couple of lab scientists, a college psychology prof, a chef, a fiction writer, a theatre director, a hairstylist, a police officer, a police dispatcher and several chaplains or ministers.

Sounds to me like we are a capable group who use knitting as a way to unwind from our challenging lives, to satisfy artistic and creative urges and aren't ones to waste time!

Let's end the stereotyping. Take your knitting out in public, speak up for yourself and show the world that knitters rock!

ps. Please post a comment and add your job or hobby to our "rockin' knitters" list.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

ADK is a good thing!

We knitters are often teased about our multiple projects. The result is that we start to doubt ourselves, our better judgement and our innate commonsense. The real truth is that our "non-knitting mockers" just don't understand!
We start to feel guilty if we have more than one project on the go. When we drop a project to work on another, we think we must have short attention spans. We even come up with labels for ourselves to make light of these feelings. We think we are suffering from multiple project disorder ...or maybe we are ADK - Attention Deficit Knitters.
But in fact, we are just healthy, well-adjusted, thinking knitters. Inherently, we know that our hands benefit when we change from one size or style needle to another, or from one type of yarn to another, or from one stitch pattern to another.
When our mind needs rest or we are engaged in conversation, we choose a less complicated project. When we want to feel absorbed and distract ourselves from daily life, we plan new projects or knit something that requires attention and focus. And sometimes we are just in the mood for a change.
Thanks to the internet and a fairly recent abundance of knitting books and magazines, knitters now enjoy access to thousands of wonderful, must-do project ideas. Everywhere we turn, we see great yarns and patterns and are inspired to try them out. Our friends and our virtual friends share their projects and we happily place new ideas in our queue. It is fun, inspiring and educational, and knitters are lapping it all up.
It's a great time to be a knitter, so just enjoy it and do whatever works for you!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Planning a Knitting Presentation

A couple of months ago, when I was asked to give a talk about knitting, I thought, "No problem! I can go on and on about the subject." But maybe that will be my problem.

My first hint of the challenge was when they told me about the three areas that the local University Women's Club needs to cover throughout their year: social, intellectual and the arts. Hey, knitting topics could cover their whole year in one meeting!

The group will meet at the shop in November to hear what I have to say. As I read and make notes and prepare, I remember that I won't be preaching to the choir. Some of these ladies won't have heard of Ravelry or Stephanie Pearl-McPhee or Knitty. There may be some who don't understand the pull of this "art with a purpose," or who may not, like others in our communities, have great respect for knitting. My job, if I choose to accept it, will be to win them over to the knit side.

Lately, I've been collecting comments from other knitters, comments that they've heard about knitting. And guess what? Many of them aren't all that respectful. In fact, the comment that made me start collecting comments just rots my handknitted socks every time I think about it.
It is the reason for my working title for this talk: "Knitters are the Rodney Dangerfields of the creative world - we don't get no respect!"

Recently, a visitor asked me how I got involved in knitting and why I opened a yarn shop. After my brief explanation, what did he say? Two simple words: "I read."

Maybe I shouldn't have been offended, but there was just a hint of arrogance in his tone. Stunned, I said nothing. What I really wanted to say was, "Hey, I read, too. Sometimes I even read while I'm knitting. Can you do that?"

Don't worry. I kept my mouth firmly closed.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Jumbo Lives!!!

We have jumbo jets, jumbo paper towels and once again, Jumbo the elephant.
St. Thomas's favourite tourist attraction was unveiled today after months of being
protected by tarps and a handknitted 50 foot scarf.

Reconconstruction, and resculpting by local artist, Peter Robson, took another few months, but now Jumbo looks as good as new.

The crowds came out to show their appreciation ...
...and perhaps to apologize to the big old guy.

Barnum and Bailey's most famous elephant met his demise on the railroad tracks in our fair city on September 15, 1885.

It will soon be 125 years.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Summer Garden and EZ's birthday

Summer is in bloom at Little Red Mitten ...

..and I'm on an Elizabeth Zimmerman knitting kick.

After I finished my February Lady's Sweater, I felt like looking through my Knitter's Almanac again. Bad move. I cast on for the February Baby's Sweater and a Pi Shawl and then remembered that we have a Baby Surprise Jacket class this week ...which I hope to cast on for tonight in Lamb's Pride Bulky.

The stars must be aligning because it will soon be the 100th anniversary of Elizabeth Zimmermann's birth.

8, 9, 10 - August 9, 1910 - Elizabeth Zimmermann's birthday



The Fiber Trends Felt Clog pattern is a pretty cool piece of knitting architecture. I'm in awe when I think about how the designer, Bev Galeskas, could come up with all of the wraps and turns, M1's and multiple other details to create such a wearable piece. These floppy clodhoppers always look so ridiculously huge ...and then you felt them, and everybody wants a pair.

Can you imagine how many prototypes Bev must have gone through to get this one right? many unusual felted blobs must have emerged from her laundry room? This is the essence of patience ...and maybe perfectionism.

Perfectionism: Seems that I get teased about this. Some people laugh at this trait, but it does have its value. As one friend says, it's because of perfectionists that other personality types can enjoy their easy-going lifestyles.

Perfectionism in Clog Class: Picture a group of knitters all sitting around a table with no one talking. Socializing is the furthest thing from their minds, as they count carefully, change directions and perform amazing feats of skill.
Row One is a challenge. When a knitter gets to the end of this row with the correct number of stitches, I think that friends and family should get together and celebrate!!! It doesn't matter that thousands of Row Ones (more than 25 000 on Ravelry alone) have been completed. Each one is an accomplishment for the knitter.
As I notice the worry and focus on everyone's face , I read aloud from the Yarn Harlot's page-a-day calendar which, interestingly, had this to say on the morning of the class:

"Remember that fear always lurks behind perfectionism. Confronting your fears and allowing yourself the right to be human can, paradoxically, make you a far happier and more productive person. Dr. David M. Burns

Seven new clog knitters relaxed and their knitting progressed quite nicely after hearing this. Thanks, Stephanie, for such a timely quote.

Update: The buttons for my February Lady's Sweater have been found! They were sneakily hiding mere inches from my knitting nest.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

It's not February, but ...

My February Lady's Sweater is done. Well, almost. If only I could find my buttons!

A few weeks ago, I decided it was time to finish this project. Normally I bounce around between (way too many) knitting projects until the finishing bug strikes and I find some focus in my knitting life.

Why did I decide that this project was next?

- Maybe it was because so many of my Addi Click cables were tied up in this sweater (and I have extras). Two cables were holding the sleeve stitches and I had joined a couple of lengths for the body so that I could try it on regularly to check the length. Yup - I needed those cables so that I could get to work on a couple of new ideas.

- Maybe it was because a friend had finished hers ...and we had started at about the same time. If I dragged this out much longer, it could get embarrassing.

- Maybe it was because I "knew" where my buttons were.

Really ...I saw them a couple of weeks ago when the push was on to get this project finished. The buttons were in a tiny little bag inside my then current project bag for this sweater. And then I switched bags.

Have you seen my buttons?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Now if only I could think of a title ...

Time spent vacationing with visiting adult children - WHOOSH! Time spent getting back to normal - who knows? I'm not there yet!

Life was quite different here for awhile and I was starting to wonder if the word "creativity" had left my vocabulary. It seemed that my left brain was in charge of every thought and activity. The only knitting I could handle was projects that were already works-in-progress ....and socks, of course. (I guess that's one great excuse for having multiple projects!) While knitting, there was always something else going on - conversation, travel, movies ... I never allowed my mind and body to just knit.

When life whirls around you and you find your mind jumping from one thought to another, there is no chance to think, dream, imagine or create. As one friend told her children when they complained that they were bored, "Great! Now is when you are the most creative!"

I needed some boredom in my life.

Friday night, after a very full day, I sat in my comfy chair, put my feet up and flipped through the pages of a quilt magazine. I don't think that I read one word. I just looked at the lovely colours, designs, techniques and artistry. In one hour, I worked on 4 different knitting projects: a few rows or rounds was all I could stick with. But as I knitted, I happily ignored a ball game on tv ..and I relaxed. My mind wandered. There were words and ideas in my head at last.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Knit-in-Public Day

Saturday was the perfect day for knitting in public. Lawn chairs were arranged in the shade of the shop as we spent the day in a lovely breeze on the patio, offering chocolate covered strawberries to passers-by ....mmmm ...relaxation.

To celebrate the day, we hung colourful word bubbles around the shop. They are still there amusing us, so I hope you can come in and check them out! You'll see lines such as, "Knitting is cheaper than therapy," "Will knit for chocolate," and my current favourite, "Spinning ...because knitting isn't weird enough."

These cute quips were courtesy of a recent spindling class at the Ontario Handspinning Seminar taught by Catherine Forbes.

Apparently, Cambridge's attempt to break the record for the most people knitting in public had about 600 knitters ...but they needed closer to 1000. I guess when the weather is soooo perfect, we Canadians just have to get out and play! Just remember to take your knitting!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

You Just Never Know!

Sleeping Beauty is alive and well in St. Thomas.
How do I know this? Because she visited Little Red Mitten this afternoon!

Sleeping Beauty, aka Robin, is on a mission to make people smile

and notice how much life is like a Disney movie

...and she had all of us smiling.

When you visit Little Red Mitten, you just never know who you'll meet!

Read Beauty's blog -


Hope to see you on Saturday, June 19 between 10 am and 4 pm

for World Wide Knit-in-Public Day

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Goodbye Pretty Sock ...Hello Handsome Sock

A ball of Zauberball Crazy is fun, wild, and yes, a bit crazy.

I started knitting "my" Zauberball sock as the perfect walk-around project while running our booth at the International Ploughing Match Quilt Show last weekend. The colours are so enticing that we sold all we had (more on order.)

Last night, while decreasing for the toe of sock number one, my husband asked if the sock was for him. Like Cinderella's step-sisters, the sock just barely stetched over his foot, obviously not his size. I don't know about you, but when a non-knitting family member says they like what I'm making, that's it! It's for them. He doth protest, (quite a bit, actually) but it will be frogged and reknitted just for him.

"Crazy" fun - here goes!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shedden Quilt Show

It was a beautiful weekend in Shedden, Ontario. The International Ploughing Match Quilt Competition brought 70 to 80 quilts, close to 400 quilt lovers and 6 vendors (Little Red Mitten was there) to inspire and be inspired.

Every chance I got, I wandered among the quilts. The colours, fabrics and designs were a pleasure to absorb. I knew that when I got home, I'd be pulling out my quilt books and magazines and planning a project in a different kind of fibre. Since I've been so-o-o focussed on knitting lately, this also meant digging out my fabrics from a storage area, rearranging work tables and ironing board and reaquainting myself with my sewing tools! I'm happy to say that I can still do it: I finished a simple block yesterday and have a new scrappy quilt project in mind.

As a yarn vendor at a quilt show, we were a bit curious about crafter crossover. As we suspected though, lots of quilters knit and lots of knitters quilt. It's prefectly normal to bounce between projects and artistic mediums!

We 'bouncy types' are in good company: there's Kaffe Fassett, a "colour visionary" and artist who knitted and needlepointed for years before adding quilt and fabric design to his life; and yesterday, I read about Ann Feitelson, author of The Art of Fair Isle Knitting, who won a prize for one of her quilt designs.

Fibre is fibre is fiber. When you love it, you've got to play with it. And we're all perfectly normal spite of what our families might think!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Using the Left Hand

Apologies for this late blog. I guess I was a bit distracted with planning a continental and a Fair Isle class. My excuse: since continental and Fair Isle both involve carrying the yarn in the left hand, maybe I got into my right brain ...and couldn't get out!

Seriously, the interest in learning continental knitting has been huge. Perhaps it is because there are so many exciting new projects and techniques to try that we either need more hours in our day or we need to speed up our knitting.

Many people tell us that continental is the way to go: "it's faster and it's more efficient." In many cases, this is true. While I love and usually prefer to knit using the good old right hand carry, I often switch to continental for knitting in the round, for garter stitch, for working on big needles, or when working ribbing or seed stitch.
Like many other knitters, I'm not particularly fond of purling continental. So why do I work ribbing and seed stitch continentally? Because I love the "lazy purl" style of knitting, otherwise known as combination knitting or Eastern Combined Uncrossed.

This method causes twisted stitches which require some simple untwisting maneuvers on the next row or round. It's the quickest, slickest way to rib and it is purported to use less yarn! Because the yarn has less distance to travel between knits and purls, less yarn is used, your tension is likely tighter, your hands have less work to do ...and it's quick.

So if you've ever turned your nose up at the idea of a ribbed or seed stitch scarf ("It's just too much work"), give this method a try and I'm sure you'll feel like you've discovered a better mousetrap!

Designing and knitting these Fair Isle Cowls was lots of fun. The fourth one, which I steeked, is awaiting just the right button.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Some Knitworthy Quotes

What a fibre-filled weekend! We went to the Knitter's Frolic in Toronto, 3 yarn shops and the Textile Museum. There was inspiration everywhere!

We strolled through the Distillery District, a repurposed 1830's distillery area which is now full of interesting shops, restaurants, galleries ...and even a chocolate factory. (Yes, I bought chocolate ...mmmm. It was Mother's Day, after all!))

In the window of a Scandinavian shop called, "Stockholm House," I found this quote: "Don't make something unless it's both necessary and useful; but if it's both necessary and useful, don't hesitate to make it beautiful." There's some food for thought. I guess that's why sock yarns are so beautiful these days.

At the Textile Museum, 55 Centre Avenue, we found this: "Colour is such a vital and vibrant ingredient of our existence that it is difficult to imagine what life would be like without it." Jill Goodwin, A Dyer's Manual. (I admit, knitting grey stocking stitch socks is a little less inspiring.)

The Russian shawls on display were absolutely amazing. The two ply yarn was incredibly fine, as fine or finer than a strand of silk.

While feasting my eyes on these Orenburg shawls , I found my favourite quote: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothing." Considering it was a cold, blustery May day and we were wearing spring coats ...but should have been sporting winter coats, hats, scarves and mittens, this was very apropos.

Here's a photo of an Orenburg shawl, followed by one of a photographic display:

For more information on Orenburg Shawls, check out the book, Gossamer Webs by Galina Khmeleva.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Neighbourhood Pics

Another gorgeous day, today. I just had to go out and snap a couple of pictures: Here's everyone's favourite elephant, Jumbo. After 25 years exposed to the elements, he's starting to show his age. Repairs should be finished in the summer, in time for the 125th anniversary of his sad demise in September, 1885.

This unusual plant, a fritillaria, comes up in the spring and lasts a week or more. I hope you'll try to check it out when you visit the shop. Look for it below the spruce trees near the back of the parking lot. And in other news, a new chip wagon opened today at the top of the hill called Jumbo Fries. We know the owners (a loyal customer) and their first employee ...and I am positive it will be a quality establishment! Be sure to give it a try!

And now for your knitting content:
Did you know that the term Luddite has a connection with knitting?
When large mills started taking away the livelihoods of knitters, spinners and weavers in the early 19th century, Ned Ludd headed a revolt against the mill owners. Since then, the term Ludditism has referred to a movement against the endless mechanization in our lives.
Be a revolutionary: just pick up some fibre and let the rhythm of your favourite 'hands-on' activity enrich your life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Beauty on a Grey Day

Sunday was one of those almost rainy, damp days where the sun rarely peeks through the solid grey mass of cloud. But it was a beautiful day!

We took my mother-in-law for a drive to Port Stanley (10 minutes south of us on Lake Erie) and the scenery was spectacular. I'm not talking about the grey lake and the grey sky and the beige sand. I am talking about the lush greens and pinks in the quiet neighbourhoods that felt like they were a world apart from everyday life. People were working in their yards under the huge blossoms of magnolias spreading their branches for all to enjoy. And because I was knitting away on a sock in the back seat, not once did I think of taking a picture ....sigh

But I think that the pretty pink and purple scarf which I worked on that night will be called my Magnolia Memories scarf.