Interconnected

About a month ago I was on Marly Bird’s podcast, “The Yarn Thing” , which was a fun and interesting experience. It’s not too late to have a listen. It really made me think about how I’ve grown as a knitter and a designer. I was worried that I came out sounding like a name dropper, but my skills came from somewhere. My growth as a knitter and designer is thanks to the bloggers and books I’ve read, the knitters I’ve met, and the teachers I’ve been lucky enough to learn from.

By 2005 I was already reading knitting blogs and doing a whole lot of knitting. I didn’t know many knitters, though, and it was mostly a solitary event for me. In January, when I was about 8 months pregnant, I attended a party for my husband’s work. I wore a t-shirt that I’d just bought and a recently-knit shawl. That event changed my life.

Debbie Wilson (yes, my friend who now owns Sheeps Ahoy) approached me and asked if I’d knit the shawl. I’d used silk from Fleece Artist that I’d bought at Yarn Forward, my LYS. Debbie told me that there were a group of people that got together at Yarn Forward to knit on Thursday afternoons. Her timing was perfect because I was just going on maternity leave.

I started going to the yarn store on Thursdays as well as attending my local guild meetings. I read more blogs. I knit more shawls. I listened, learned, and asked questions of people who have tons of knitting experience. I took advantage of every opportunity I could to learn something new. Lucy Neatby came and taught in Ottawa. I started attending an annual retreat that Debbie now runs. I designed some more. I started going to Rhinebeck in the fall. I went to Knitting Camp.

I’ve been lucky to take courses in person from many great knit designers as well as courses online.  A couple of weekends ago I had a chance to spend some time in the company of other designers just to knit, chat, and exchange stories. The support in this community is wonderful. My world of knitting connections keeps growing.

I’m still rooted in the afternoon group that I started attending 11 years ago. I go when I can, work permitting. Those people are dear friends (and models, and test knitters, and wonderful cheerleaders for me). Their stories, recipes, and tips all come to mind when I am knitting, even when I’m alone, and they keep me company.

It seems so very appropriate to me that a craft that uses yarn has brought me such a wonderful interconnected group of people.

What does your knitting community look like?

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Long weekend spinning

It has been very very cold this weekend in Ottawa: under -40 degrees with windchill. That means I haven’t been outside much. I’ve had a good long weekend from a knitting perspective, so I’ve allowed myself some spinning time.

Now there’s nothing really pressing on the needles: one new shawl is blocked, my year-old blanket has been cast off, a new scarf with no particular deadline is cast on, and I’ve got a shawl in progress that I hope to complete this month. This means that I can do a little more spinning to relax.

I finished up the singles of the SCF Esmerelda on Bond, but I haven’t plied them yet:

Esmerelda singles, Bond from SCF

My new spinning is my first ever spin of fiber from Hello Yarn. This is the start of Lurking in Alleys on Falkland wool top:

Lurking in Alleys, Falkland, from Hello Yarn

So far so good. The colours are great and the fiber is nice and easy to deal with.

Here’s a glimpse of my new blanket next to the fireplace that warmed my toes after a trip to the park yesterday. The scarf that I cast on is in the same stitch pattern. I expect it’ll be out while the weather still warrants knitting warm things.

Ribbed Chevron Blanket by Natalie Servant

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My knitting companion: Poirot

I’ve been knitting so much this last week that I haven’t spent any time at all with my spinning wheel. Hopefully that’ll change soon. I’ve been working on a deadline knit and I finally cast off last night.

What’s been keeping me company through much of my knitting since November is the TV series of Poirot with David Suchet. I’ve been watching the whole series on Netflix. The only problem with knitting and watching Poirot is that I frequently have to stop and go back a few seconds to take a picture of the buildings:

Poirot

Poirot

Or the fashion:

Poirot - hat

Poirot

Or the colour combinations:

Poirot - Miss Lemon

 

Poirot

Poirot - tam

And then at other times I need to go back to write down some of the meaner but hilarious things that Poirot says. For example:

Mr. McNeil: “I’ll have you know that in the 5 years that I have been head of security here not so much as a paper clip has gone missing.”

Poirot: “Monsieur McNeil, I am sure if such a thing were to happen, you would be the man ideal for the case.”

There is also plenty of knitting on display. Captain Hastings sports his Fair Isle sweaters:

Hastings - sweater

Poirot - sweaters

Hastings - sweater

And Hastings is also on the receiving end of Poirot’s remarks:

Poirot: “We must be so intelligent that he does not suspect us of being intelligent at all.”

Hastings: “Absolutely.”

Poirot: “And there you will be invaluable, mon ami.”

I’ve probably got a few weeks left of intermittent viewings of Poirot while I knit, and I intend to enjoy them! I’ll leave you with this picture of Poirot, sick in bed and sporting a shawl:

Poirot_shawl

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Suburban Station Hat & Mittens: the design process

This week I put out a new hat & mitten set.

Suburban Station Set by Natalie Servant

The Suburban Station Hat & Mittens are inspired by a railway station in Philadelphia.

Pennsylvania Railroad Suburban Station Facade (c) Lucius Kwok

(c) Lucius Kwok, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Generic license

This was one of those designs that seemed to move really quickly, but when I thought about it, it’s taken more than a year. Back in October 2014 I went to Rhinebeck and bought some O-Wool O-Wash Fingering – their new superwash fingering yarn – in Paw Paw and Black Bear. I was intrigued when I read about their certified organic wool that was turned into superwash wool by a non-standard process. I went to the booth and I spent ages agonizing over colours. I eventually chose the two highly contrasting skeins for a potential  colourwork project.

Then in January 2015 I was doing a sketch a day (or so), looking for inspiration everywhere. I was trawling the internet for cool Art Deco buildings when I saw a picture of the Pennsylvania Suburban Station and quickly sketched out a mitten idea.

Early this January while I was supposed to be doing other things I came across my sketch. I got absorbed by the idea and came up with a draft of a mitten pattern in a couple of hours. I knew I had exactly the right colours in the stash with the O-Wool, and when I realized both the building inspiration & yarn hailed from Philadelphia it seemed like the perfect match.

A few hours later I’d wound the yarn & embarked on the first mitten. There were some revisions to the charts when it wasn’t looking quite as good as I’d imagined. Ripping the mitten back was painful, but I’m thrilled with the end result.

Just a few weeks later I had the hat and mittens knit, the pattern back from the tech editor, and pictures taken with Francine on a lovely walk around the Stony Swamp. I am thrilled with this set. I wish you could feel how soft & smooth the fabric is. I am certain I’ll be knitting with this yarn again. And when I stop by the O-Wool booth at Rhinebeck this year I won’t feel any guilt about buying more because I used mine!

IMG_8830_close

The Suburban Station Set (hat + mittens) is $7.

The Suburban Station Hat pattern is $5 by itself.

The Suburban Station Mittens pattern is $4 by itself.

Don’t worry! If you get one of the patterns & decide you need the other one later, the discount for the set will be automatically applied.

Suburban Station Hat by Natalie Servant

Suburban Station Mittens by Natalie Servant

 

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Sunday spinning update: back at it

After all the super skinny singles of December, I wanted to take things a little bit easier in January, so I grabbed a bag of Southern Cross Fibre (Esmerelda on Bond Wool). I split it into quarters and I’ve done almost 3 of them so far. The singles are a little thicker than my usual and I’m planning on turning this into a 2 ply, eventually.

Southern Cross Fibre - Esmerelda on Bond

Meanwhile I’m still keeping my eyes open all the time for beautiful and inspirational things. Here are some of the things that have caught my eye recently.

Funky clouds: I stopped the car on my way home on a yucky day and pulled out the real camera for this one:

Cloudy Sky

Having a front balcony with a great view of the setting sun has greatly increased the number of sunset pictures I’m taking. I think it’s great! I’m noticing more sunsets.

Sunset

 

Winter can be beautiful. One day last week I noticed that there was a layer of frost on everything. I had to go outside to walk the kids to school, so I took advantage of it. I grabbed the camera and went around taking photos on the way home. Some of the trees were glowing, lit up by the sun.

Frosty tree

Frosty pine

 

And then there’s wildlife in the winter. Today I captured a squirrel in motion and a very typical chickadee:

IMG_8766_squirrel

 

IMG_8742_chickadee

 

 

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My December knitting for fun

In December I did a fair bit of knitting from other people’s patterns. It started with the Indie GAL. I decided it was time to knit the shrug/sweater my daughter had been requesting. I’ve had the yarn for most of the year (Berroco Vintage), and I settled on Laura Chau’s Top Down Shoulder Warmer. This pattern is easy to follow & has tons of sizes.  I made the 12″ back size (the smallest) and I knit and washed my swatch.

The sweater was pretty easy to knit. The only problem came when I needed to pick up stitches to begin working in the round. I just couldn’t handle doing that on a black sweater without any natural light, so that had to wait a day for some sun!

In the end, my daughter has a charming little sweater that she wears frequently and it looks just about as good inside out as it does right side out!

TDSW

Next up, when the new Knitty came out I was captivated by the Tree cowl. My interest was strengthened when I realized that I had two skeins of the exact yarn and colour in my stash. Perfect! I cast on that night, and very quickly I’d made a cowl for each of the kids. Sam wears his to school over his spiderman balaclava.

Tree cowl on Spidey

This was just the perfect break for me after a year of releasing patterns at a very steady rate. I don’t have an exact schedule this year, so I’m planning to fit in more “me” knitting around my designs. And since Zoé’s sweater went so well, it’s time for a garment for me.

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Happy New Year!

I really didn’t mean to go silent for a month. I’ve been having some much-needed relaxation time over the holidays and now I’m starting 2016 charged up and ready to go.

The first thing that I want to do on the blog is a review of my work in 2015. This was a busy year for me. After 2 years of planning & design, I gradually released Canadian Art Deco Knits, one pattern every month.

Canadian Art Deco Knits by Natalie Servant

 

CanadianArtDecoKnits

I also ran my annual Tour de France KAL in July and this year it was the Labrouste pattern. It was one of those happy times that yarn I had bought years earlier turned out to be the perfect colour and amount.

Labrouste shawl by Natalie Servant

I did manage to come out with a few other pattern releases. In most cases, I’d done the work before 2015 started. This was true for Lucy the Valiant (a club pattern for Wooly Wonka Fibers), Suzanne (a present for my mother-in-law), Desdemona’s Handkerchief (in the Defarge Does Shakespeare book), and the Butterfly Ship Shawl (in Dreams, Fickle Knitter Design vol. 2). Corin is a scarf that happened as a result of me fooling around with garter stitch and colours for a pattern submission.

2015_designs

blanket picture (c) Caro Sheridan, Butterfly Ship Shawl (purple & gold) (c) Michelle Miller

And then there’s Nalina. I’m so happy to have had a pattern accepted to Twist Collective, and this one was another Art Deco inspired design.

(c) Crissy Jarvia

(c) Crissy Jarvia

2015 was a very busy design year for me! So what does 2016 look like for me and my knitting design?

I’ve got a few plans, but after all the deadlines of last year I’m going to take it a little easier on myself. In the first quarter of the year I’m focusing on turning Canadian Art Deco Knits into a physical book, which is an interesting so far. I’m also working on a smallish lace collection and I’ve got yarn and sketches ready for another shawl collection. I’ve also got some sketches done for my Tour de France KAL. Hopefully that works out as I’ve imagined, because I love the amazing Neolithic inspiration and I’m looking forward to sharing more about it.

I’m not sure that that really sounds like I’m taking it easier. I’ve also currently got a shawl, a hat and mitten set, another shawl, and a scarf in various stages of knitting/design. There will be lots of knitting this year!

Personally, I also want to make at least 1 garment for me from someone else’s pattern. I’m currently planning on a sweater in the beautiful Fourth of July I bought from Briar Rose on my first trip to Rhinebeck. And I want to complete at least a few of my Craftsy classes and learn some new things.

What are your knitting goals for 2016?

Posted in Art Deco, Canadian Art Deco Knits, design, inspiration, knitting, Tour de France KAL | Tagged | 1 Comment

Canadian Art Deco Knits: Lyle Owl Pillow

December’s Art Deco pattern is something for the home. The Lyle Owl Pillow is a stranded pillow worked seamlessly from the bottom up and then grafted closed over a pillow form.

Lyle Owl Pillow by Natalie Servant

This charming owl was inspired by the ones looking out from what is now an Elephant & Castle pub in Toronto. Back when the building started out, it was a bank branch designed by John MacIntosh Lyle. I’ve shown some of his work before on the blog. Like so many of his bank buildings, it’s full of Canadian plants and wildlife, among other things.

Owls on Elephant & Castle, Toronto, ON

This design is worked in worsted weight, so it’s a fairly quick knit. I used just a touch more than 1 skein of the dark yarn (SweetGeorgia Yarns Superwash Worsted in Charcoal) and a little less than 1 skein of the light yarn (same yarn in Silver).

This pattern had a bit of a rough beginning. I printed off a picture of the owl as large as I could and taped it to the large patio window to try to sketch out the lines that I felt were important. That seemed to take me ages before I was satisfied. The first draft that got knit was not quite square and it certainly was not as pleasing as what I finally ended up with. I’m glad I stuck with this one, as it’s now one of my favourites.

This concludes my year-long adventure of releasing a new Canadian Art Deco architectural knitting pattern a month. This project was in the works for a few years, and I’m looking towards the next phase. I’m currently working on a way to turn these patterns into a physical book, which is both exciting and daunting!

The Lyle Owl Pillow is available on Ravelry for pattern: $6 USD

Canadian Art Deco Knits by Natalie Servant

Canadian Art Deco Knits e-book subscription: $25 USD

 

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November Canadian Art Deco Knits yarnies: Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Fine Yarn

My November pattern, the Aldred Mittens, used Canadian yarn from two sister companies: Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Fine Yarn. It’s not really a surprise to me that I had appropriate yarn from them in my stash to knit with!

Aldred Mittens by Natalie Servant, photo by Zoé Servant

These wonderful companies and the yarns they dye are familiar to many knitters in Canada and around the world. They are very dear to me from my early forays into knitting and designing. I’ve used their yarn to make socks, shawls, and gloves. Some items were for me but many were gifts. It was inevitable that I should use yarn from these companies in my designs as well.

I used Handmaiden Fine Yarns Sea Silk for the large version of my Chrysler Crown Shawl. I remember how happy I was to find two matched skeins of this yarn and it seemed like the perfect yarn to use in my very first paid pattern.

Chrysler Crown Shawl by Natalie Servant

I used Fleece Artist Merino 2/6 and Angel Hair for my first third-party submission to Knitcircus. Tudor Ruffles was a textured scarf, and the idea for it had come from the beautiful yarn from Fleece Artist. I really wanted to use as much of the yarn as possible because I was in love with the colours. My goal was to show off the matching lace weight and fingering weight yarns. This is what I came up with:

Tudor Ruffle scarf by Natalie Servant

I also made a golden version that used Fleece Artist Opaca for the lace weight yarn:

Tudor Ruffles by Natalie Servant

When I was working on my Summer in Provence series of patterns I used Handmaiden Fine Yarn Ottawa for my large Poppy Field Shawl. I just wore this cozy shawl a couple of days ago and I still love it!

Poppy Field Shawl by Natalie Servant

 

Childeric’s Bees was a great excuse to play with Handmaiden Fine Yarn’s Mini Maiden.

Childeric's Bees by Natalie Servant

Not only have I knit with yarn from these companies, I’ve also spun fiber! My recent Giftable Cowl was knit with lovely 4 ply yarn that I made from Fleece Artist Merino that I got for my birthday.

Giftable Cowl by Natalie Servant

 

Fleece Artist and Handmaiden Fine Yarns make many different yarns and I’ve used quite a few. In fact you could almost say that Fleece Artist yarns are at least partially responsible for me being in a position to write this blog post. Back in 2005 when I was very pregnant with my first child I was getting ready to go to my husband’s work party. I was huge and I didn’t have anything appropriate to wear. I wore a silk shawl I’d made and a plain t-shirt I’d bought to wear with it. A fellow knitter approached me in the bathroom to chat about the shawl, and as a result I started going to a sit & knit afternoon at my LYS. The friends I’ve made and the skills and ideas I’ve gleaned from those sessions have helped to turn me into the knitter that I am today. Thanks!

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Indie GAL: Crochet

At last I’ve reached my final post of my favourites from the Indie GAL sale. These patterns & thousands more are on sale on Ravelry until Friday Nov. 27 at 11:59 EST. Use the coupon code giftalong2015.

I can’t really crochet. I’ve tried a few times to learn, but it hasn’t quite worked out. If it ever does, patterns like the ones below are what I’d tackle:

Geisha’s Finest by Tanja Osswald

Geisha's Finest by Tanja Osswald(c) LiliTupili

 

A Scarf of Many Triangles by Beth Graham

Scarf of Many Triangles by Beth Graham(c) JS Webb Photography

 

Sorbet Shawl by ACCROchet

Sorbet Shawl by ACCROchet(c) ACCROchet

 

Porcelain Berry Shawl by Elena Fedotova

Porcelain Berry Shawl by Elena Fedotova(c) Ravliki

 

Amigurimi Reindeer Marley by Kate E. Hancock

Marley by Kate E. Hancock(c) Kate E. Hancock

 

Sleepy Fox Amigurimi by Michelle

Sleepy Fox by Amanda Michelle(c) Amanda Michelle

 

Elegance Fingerless Gloves by Sonja Otto

Elegance Fingerless Gloves by Sonja Otto(c) Sonja Otto

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