5th annual Tour de France KAL: a hint of what’s to come

We are now just a month out from the start of the Tour de France (July 5th, 2014), so it’s almost time for my annual Tour de France Knit Along. I feel like my knitting mojo is returning just in time! I’ve put aside a lovely bag of yarn for prizes in preparation for the Tour, and I’ll tell you about them next week.

Five years ago I was working on transforming my idea for a shawl into the Eiffel Tower Shawl. It was finally ready just before the 2010 Tour de France, and that inspired me to create a KAL with Tour-related prizes. Each year since then I’ve done another KAL during the Tour with a French theme: the Sunflower Field Shawl (agriculture), Childeric’s Bees (history/archeology), and the Père Lachaise Shawl (architecture/Paris).

This year I’ve come up with a design specifically inspired by the Tour de France. I first became a faithful follower of the Tour during my first maternity leave in 2005. Over the years of watching I’ve learned more about racing, teamwork, and the peloton. The highlight for me was being in Paris for the final stage of the Tour de France two years ago.

The idea that’s been percolating in my head for months is to do a shawl that shows the different shapes that the peloton (the main group of riders in the race) takes. When there is a crosswind, the riders form echelons: diagonal lines across the road giving as much shelter as  possible. When a particular rider or team starts comes to the front to pick up the pace in the peleton, it turns into a pointed arrow or diamond shape, with riders trailing out the back. When the riders are struggling up a brutal mountain climb, they become a long winding outline of the hairpin bends of the road.

I’ve taken these shapes and turned them into a semi-circular shawl pattern. I’ve done a trial run with some light fingering weight yarn and I’m working with fingering weight yarn at the moment. I expect that a small shawlette can be made with 1 skein but for a full-sized shawl you’ll want 2 skeins (around 800 yards) of fingering weight yarn.

So start gearing up for the Tour KAL now! Search the stash for one or two skeins of fingering weight yarn in solid or semi-solid colours. Make sure you’ve got appropriate needles ready to use. Stay tuned to the blog for more details about what’s to come.


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Sunday spinning update: slow progress

I’ve been spending a few minutes here & there working on my Turtlepurl Merino, but I’m still in the very long brown section. Progress is being made, and I’m hoping to see the colours change this week:

Turtlepurl Merino spinning

Now that the move is a couple of weeks old I sort of thought things might have calmed down a bit, but this week was still a flurry of activity that included alarm system activation (with free condescending assumptions about my awareness of VoIP) and waiting 4 hours for someone to come and fix the front door (an easy fix done in 10 minutes, thank goodness). Next week I have got to get working on window coverings and the basement and upstairs desk are the main remaining targets for unpacking.

Although it shouldn’t be surprising to me, the new house is getting dirty and and dusty and actually needs cleaning despite me feeling like I’ve done enough of that to last me a month or so. Dust never sleeps.

Here’s something that I spent a bit of time setting up. It’s my yarn closet:

Truthfully, it’s my everything closet. On the left, a bookcase with knitting books. Then under the shelves are my yarn bins. On the shelves are my fiber stash, tools, WIPs (in baskets), and then around on the right hand side are my clothes. I now feel like I know where all my yarn & tools are. Perhaps that’ll help bring back my knitting mojo.

I picked up a new skill this week: a rope twist hairdo thingy. Zoé was watching a Frozen video, then something about how to do a Frozen hairdo, followed by another hairdo video. Thanks YouTube. She made me watch it and try it out. It was surprisingly easy, and I may yet get better at it.

We also took a little time on this beautiful weekend to go on a walk. Z kept stopping to gather samples of things that she thought were beautiful. Taking a picture of them stopped them from coming in the house. Enjoy!


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A pattern in a magazine!

We did survive our house move. All is well. More on that later, because I’ve got exciting knitting news to tell you about. This week the Knitscene Accessories 2014 issue went online, and I’ve got a hat pattern in it! My Valerian Hat pattern came out of the designs that I’ve seen in a number of Art Deco buildings on door frames or around an elevator.

I wanted to make a hat that was relatively simple to knit (so there’s a small colourwork section) but still pleasing and snug and warm. I worked up two test samples with some Tosh DK that I had on hand from my Manhattan Bridge Shawl. Thanks to Jenn & Louise for wearing them:

Jenn & Louise sporting my Valerian Hat prototypes

Knitscene sent me some lovely Sonoma from Baah Yarn (in Obsidian and Maldives) for the official hat. I knit up the squishy yarn and sent it off before thinking to get some decent pictures. Oh well! Here’s one from Knitscene:

Valerian Hat - (c) Knitscene / Harper Point

© Knitscene/Harper Point

In other knitting pattern news, the patterns from What (Else) Would Madame Defarge Knit? are now available as individual patterns. This means that you can now buy Marilla’s Shawl by itself (or any of the other lovely patterns) if that’s all you want to have.

Happy knitting. I’ll be back shortly with more pictures from this week’s move.

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Sunday spinning update: just the beginning

We’re in major move mood here: we’re at single digit number of days left to go. Boxes are everywhere. The basement is starting to look reasonable.

I kept out one braid of merino from Turtlepurl that I’m spinning for a friend. It’s going to be chain-plied for a gradual colour-changing yarn. I don’t expect to have much free time in the next little while, but it’s nice to be able to take a break and do something relaxing. So far this is just the beginning:

I’m going to go a little quiet over the next couple of weeks as we go through the excitement and stress of moving. It has been helpful to go through so much of our stuff and purge what is no longer useful to us. I’m looking forward to a great new environment to live and play.

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Frolic fun

This past weekend I was lucky enough, once again, to take a trip to Toronto with my friend Debbie to help out at her Sheeps Ahoy booth at the DKC Knitters’ Frolic. Here’s the booth. It was less blurry in person:

Sheeps Ahoy at the 2014 Knitters' Frolic in Toronto

During the show I managed to take a bit of time to scope out some of the beautiful items for sale. I ended up going with two lovely skeins of Coastal from Sweet Fiber (Melissa came all the way from BC!). This new base is 50% merino/50% silk, which is one of my favourite blends to work with. I had to snap up these two skeins in Vintage Lace. It was tough to pick out a colour, but now that I’ve seen a whole pile of them in person, it’ll make it easier to jump in for more yarn later. Oh dear.

Sweet Fiber Coastal in Antique Lace

I was also thrilled to see Geneviève Noël of Turtlepurl Yarns. She used to be at least slightly more local to me, but now that she’s out in the Maritimes I don’t get to see her much. I’m excited to play with this skein of Pillow Talk that she’s using to experiment with super long stripes.

Turtlepurl Yarns - Pillow Talk - Patience Stripes Beta in Fire Starter (2b) & Shades of Grey (4B - 40 yd stripe)

Did I say skein? Well it looks like there are two now (FireStarter & Shades of Grey). Funny how that happened.

And finally I got to see a few friends: Sarah (byneedleandthread)  dropped by with these lovely bags she made me. This was part of an exchange that I think I totally won. I spun some yarn for her, and she sewed the bags. They have a divider and some yarn guides that make them perfect for stranded knitting.

bags by ByNeedleAndThread

And here’s Maureen Foulds.

Natalie Servant & Maureen Foulds

We’ve been chatting online for a while, and even before I met her there, I bought a spindle from her via Sarah. True story. You should totally go check out her latest pattern, the Intertwined Mitts, especially the version where the traveling stitches are done in  a contrasting colour. Gorgeous!

Then in the evening after the busy day of the show, Debbie & I kicked back for dinner with Hasmi of Raventwist. I’ve worked with a few of her yarns in the past and it was great to see her again (and pet her yarns in person).

Hasmi Ferguson & Natalie Servant

It was a great weekend. Now it’s back to the final stages of packing before we move. There are only two weeks left and they are going to be busy ones with only knitting at night to save my sanity.


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Sunday spinning update: qiviut

I was away this weekend at the DKC Knitter’s Frolic in Toronto helping out at the Sheeps Ahoy booth, but I don’t have my thoughts sorted enough to tell you about that yet.

What I can tell you is that my qiviut is finally plied! I have about 817 yards in 54g and it feels as soft as a cloud. It was a treat to spin, but I know that I bought more than I intended. It will go into the stash and I’ll do some careful thinking and research about what this yarn should be when it grows up and gets knit.

2 ply qiviut spun from fiber from Cottage Craft Angora (~817 yds in 54g)

I’m pondering adding slightly more twist to it, but I haven’t settled on an answer yet. Feel free to chime in with advice.

When I got home today, I was happy to see that the plants that Sam and I started last week are starting to look a bit green.

Radishes and peas beginning to sprout

The peas and radishes are taking off, and some of the herbs, flowers and beans look like they’re going to be more visible very soon. With the upcoming house move (2 weeks!) I really don’t know what their future looks like, but that will get sorted out in time.

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A walk around the park

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I was in downtown Ottawa? The classes with Nancy Bush were at the top of a hotel right beside the massive Museum of Nature, and at lunch time I went out to hunt down a few examples of Art Deco architecture that I’d seen before when driving through the neighbourhood. Here are my top 3 buildings of that little walk:

335 Metcalfe – The Trafalgar

335 Metcalfe, Ottawa - The Trafalgar

Park Square at 425 Elgin

Windsor Arms at 150 Argyle St  - This massive building drew me in, and I wanted to get as much of it as I could in one picture.

What really surprised me were the colourful tiles. I haven’t seen another building like this in Ottawa.

It called to my mind this amazing building in Montreal: 1414 Drummond (Drummond Medical Arts Building).

Drummond Medical Arts Building, Montreal, 1414 Drummond

I’m so glad I took advantage of the sunshine to look at some buildings I’d only seen briefly when driving into the downtown core. Seeing the tile decoration was like finding an Easter egg!

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Saturday spinning update: Qiviut singles

Here’s where the qiviut spinning is at right now:

I’ve finally finished the singles and today I took over half an hour to wind them up for plying. Part of that time was me being slow and careful, part of it was the yardage. Hopefully I’ll find some time in the chocolate-enhanced day tomorrow or Monday to start the plying. Any guesses on the yardage, given that I’ve got 54 grams of singles here? I’m thinking 2 ply will be over 300 yards, but beyond that, I’m not willing to speculate.

In family news, we’ve finally got spring here in Ottawa and the kids have been outside voluntarily at almost every opportunity. It’s absolutely wonderful. Today I suggested that they do spring/Easter type drawings. It started as expected, with a bunny and some eggs and a baby bird in a tree.

It ended on this rather unusual note:

Yes, that’s a skunk doing what skunks do. I hope we’re able to avoid seeing this in person. Happy spring!

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A weekend with Nancy Bush

Wow. I’m still trying to process all the knitting I’ve done and everything I’ve learned in the last few days. It’s been a whirlwind! Our local knitting guild brought Nancy Bush in for a series of workshops this weekend, and I went to them all.

Day 1 was a full day of Estonian lace looking at the construction of a triangular shawl. The best thing I got out of this day was some actual experience with sewing on the edges. I must admit that I had previously shied away from some of the patterns in Knitted Lace of Estonia because of sewn-on edges. I won’t have that problem any more! At the end of a long day of knitting, I had this cute little sample triangle:

Sampler from Nancy Bush's class on Estonian Lace & triangular shawl construction

Day 2 involved two classes. First up was Roositud (sounds kind of like rosy-tood). You may remember that last year I used this technique to make gloves from Nancy’s Folk Knitting in Estonia book. Aino’s Gloves were quite a challenge, and at the time I thought the gauge was a challenge also. That was nothing! Nancy had some gloves on hand where there were at least 12 sts to an inch.

For me, the price of admission was worth just hearing Nancy pronounce Roositud, but what made this class extra awesome was seeing a whole table full of authentic Estonian examples of the technique. If I made Aino’s Gloves again, I probably would not double up my contrast colour. Just to play with that idea, I used single contrast colour in the first and third motifs in the class sample, and doubled the contrast yarn in the second one. I definitely prefer the single yarn sections. This is now going to be a small bag for my daughter.

Roositud sample from class with Nancy Bush

Day 2 in the afternoon was Estonian Traveling Stitches. I went into this with very little understanding of what I was about to try. Basically, these stitches are like 1 stitch cables, but unlike Bavarian stitches, there aren’t any twisted stitches. It’s fast and fun to execute, but from the wonderful samples Nancy had, it also looks best when worked at an incredibly small gauge. Hmmm.

Estonian traveling stitch sample from class with Nancy Bush

Day 3 was all about gloves. Although I’ve knit gloves before, this class was great for tips on knitting gloves that fit well. The coolest thing for me was how the fingers from the class sample lay flat when not being worn. I can’t show you that, I’m afraid, because I only got this far:

beginning of glove from class with Nancy Bush

What I’d like to do is start all over again because initially in class I used needles that were too large. And because of my rather large hands I’d like to add a few stitches to the count. And because I had so much fun doing the Estonian traveling stitches, I’d like to play with adding some of them to the glove. So many plans, so little time!

I tried to take lots of notes over the weekend, even when something seemed like such a common sense idea that I thought I couldn’t possibly forget it. I’ll go over my notes again before I pack all the papers away to try to ensure that some of this information actually stays in my brain!

If you have a chance to take a class with Nancy Bush, go for it. Her class projects were well thought out and they give you valuable experience with new techniques. She is a passionate advocate for Estonian knitting traditions. The classes all involved a few interesting personal stories from Nancy’s travels, as well as lots of information from her research.

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Saturday spinning update: qiviut

Before I talk about the spinning, I’ll just mention briefly that I went to my first class with Nancy Bush today. I’ll save up all my thoughts about this weekend’s classes write about them all at once early next week.

The qiviut that I started spinning a couple of weeks ago is still a work in progress. I know I’m making progress because the bobbin is filling up, but the bag still seems to have plenty left in it.

Qiviut on the bobbin

Qiviut still left to spin

I’m still enjoying spinning this fiber, especially when I manage to forget how rare and expensive it is. It’s very very light. Hopefully over the next week or so I’ll manage to finish up the singles. It’s going to be a 2 ply yarn somewhere between lace & fingering weight, I expect.

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