Confession Time

I have a confession to make. I have been knitting for almost a decade and I teach other people how to knit, but I just knit my first sweater this past winter.

me wearing my Maren sweater

Well, if you want to get technical about it, it’s my first adult sweater. I’ve knit baby sweaters before, some knit top-down in the round, some knit flat in pieces and then seamed. They’ve had all the important parts — backs, left fronts, right fronts, sleeves, button bands, collars. I’ve knit small garments for myself that weren’t exactly sweaters — shrugs and capelets. They’re like knitting a top-down sweater but then stopping when you get to the boring bits after the bust, skipping the seemingly endless expanse of stomach and back. (I do realize that this also means that I’ve never done any waist shaping on an adult-sized garment, and also that since I usually need to knit an extra-small or a small size in a garment for myself, I shouldn’t complain about there being an “endless expanse” of anything.) So it wasn’t daunting to knit a stranded colourwork pattern and steek it for my “first adult sweater,” since I already had plenty of experience with all the techniques used in it except for the steeking.

The pattern is called Maren, and is included in Ragga Eiríksdóttir‘s Craftsy class The Top-Down Icelandic Sweater. It’s knit in Létt-Lopi and the main colour is Glacier Blue Heather. I used the same colour scheme as in the original pattern, as I love turquoise and the beautiful colours are what attracted me to the pattern in the first place.

I dubbed my sweater the Blizzard Maren, as the reason I was able to complete the knitting fairly quickly was that the weather was so bad this past winter that I had plenty of time to sit around and knit. I worked on my Maren during two or three blizzards plus who knows how many snowstorms, and I was able to finish the actual knitting part in less than a month.

It quickly grew from this…

Maren's neck

into this…

me trying on the yoke of my Maren sweater

into this…

me trying on my Maren sweater before knitting the sleeves

fairly quickly, and the sleeves went quickly, too, although I didn’t get a post-sleeves pre-steeking photo.

It took me more than another month to do all of the finishing work, though, because there was a lot of it — washing and conditioning the sweater, blocking the sweater, crocheting on either side of the steek stitch, cutting the steek, sewing the ribbons on the inside edges getting my mother to sew the ribbons on the inside edges because she sews way better than I do, crocheting the button loops, and sewing on the buttons. I also had to be really alert in order to do any of those things, which is difficult since I’m usually exhausted.

The Top-Down Icelandic Sweater is one of the few Craftsy classes that now have student-led discussions because the instructor didn’t feel she had time to answer student questions anymore, but the video lessons are very clear, and any questions I had about little things that weren’t covered in the video lessons were easy to find answers to by reading previous answers Ragga had given to other people’s questions back when she was still doing so, by reading student discussions, and by looking at people’s project notes for Maren on Ravelry. So I’d say it’s definitely worth taking. The sweater is pretty, it’s not hard, and even taking scissors to my knitting and cutting a one-stitch steek wasn’t too scary. I didn’t modify the pattern very much, just knit four extra rounds before the armholes (I found them too tight as written in the pattern, but for the smallest bust size, the armholes were perfect with the four extra rounds) and I made the sleeves longer because I hate three-quarter length sleeves.

I did take thread and sew down the ends of the contrasting colour in the yoke on the inside edge of the sweater before my mother sewed the ribbon all along the inside edge. In the videos, Ragga doesn’t sew anything down before she sews the ribbon trim on, but I’m not that brave. Anyway, it was a one-stitch steek reinforced with crochet and a bit of hand-sewing, no machine sewing at all, and everything held together just fine. Plus, there are owls on the ribbon trim. Sweet.

owl ribbon trim on inside of my Maren sweater

I also found the perfect buttons at Fabricville.

these buttons remind me of Elsa in Frozen

I love the turquoise with the white swirls; they make me think of Elsa in Frozen. The Maren pattern only buttons about halfway down, and I decided to stick to that even though I was surprised to discover that if I had wanted to add buttons all the way to the bottom, it still would’ve fit. There’s no shaping past the bust; you just knit plain until you get to the bottom ribbing, but it appears that if I wanted to, I could have added buttons all the way down and it would have closed just fine over my hips.

me wearing my Maren sweater

Although it was my first time steeking, that wasn’t the only thing I learned. The reason I never knit an entire sweater before was that I have the attention span of a flea. So I guess I learned how to marshal my flea attention span long enough to get through a whole sweater without getting bored and abandoning it. Lately I’ve obtained a few sweater kits, and I’m going to get some more sweaters finished in the future, in addition to the constant parade of accessories I’m always knitting. Right now I’m working on an Amiga cardigan in a gorgeous emerald green Americo Cotton Flammé. Working on it for really. It’s got a body, and I’ve just gotten started on the first sleeve. So maybe I’ll even finish it before it gets too cold for it and it’s time to start wearing the Blizzard Maren again. You never know.

Maren sweater

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I Love My Hat.

Everdeen Beanie

I love my hat.

side view of Everdeen Beanie

It’s the Everdeen Beanie by Tanis Gray from the book Weekend Hats, knit with Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in the Cove colourway. I love, love, love the way this yarn looks in this pattern. I knit it about two years ago and it has been my favourite winter hat since then.

me in my Everdeen Beanie and BSC hoodie

I also love the Weekend Hats book in general. Although this is the only pattern I’ve knit from it so far, there are several others I’d like to make. If only I could find the time…

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Ugly Halloween Sweater

Last week I did a Google Image search for “Jacques Plante knitting,” you know, as one does, and one of the images that came up (one of the first images that came up) was a photo of me at a Valentine’s Day dinner, on account of this post. Well, that was odd. And it also reminded me that hey, I (ostensibly) have a blog.

As penance for ignoring my blog for over a year this time, here is a photo of me from yesterday, wearing an ugly Halloween sweater. My face isn’t really that red; it just looks that way in the photo. (Perhaps I shouldn’t have admitted that, because not actually being red-faced means that I chose to wear that sweater while completely sober, and that I wasn’t even embarrassed enough to blush about it.)

me in an ugly Halloween sweater

Me in an ugly Halloween sweater.

It’s like something Ms. Frizzle from The Magic School Bus would wear. It is not handknit; I bought it at Value Village for four dollars, and clearly it was worth every penny. Although now I suppose that when you do a Google Image search for “Jacques Plante knitting” you will also wind up with a photo of me in an ugly Halloween sweater. This is a really weird thought.

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Like a Phoenix

Last year it was feeling like a chore to make sure I posted at least once a month, and I decided that I was only going to post when I felt inspired. I forgot, however, that inspiration only comes to me once I’ve already been sitting at my desk for a while working on something. (I’m using the term “desk” loosely, by the way. My laptop is on a TV tray and I’ve got piles of knitting and books on the dining room table.) So I’m giving up on waiting for inspiration.

A few things that happened since I last posted: I got my pointe shoes last summer and now dance (if you can call it that) on my toes, my husband and I went on our honeymoon to Disney World in September 2012, we visited family in Edmonton this August and saw our new niece the day she was born, I finished the Basics, Basics, Basics correspondence course offered through The Knitting Guild Association, and last weekend I attended KnitEast 2013. Since that is rather a lot to cover, for now, I’ll just write about KnitEast, which is relatively fresh in my mind.

The weather was gorgeous and warm (honestly, the sun streaming into the classrooms made it feel a bit too warm during classes, but I’d much rather that than too cold), and although I barely even noticed the rain during KnitEast 2011, I was still glad we had such a stunning Indian summer weekend this time around. Sure, I’d already seen how lovely St. Andrews can be at this time of year, but I’m happy that people who might have come from far away for the weekend got the chance to, as well.

I learned a lot in the classes I took, and found them interesting. In the Build a Toy Workshop with Susan B. Anderson, where you could pick from various heads, bodies, limbs, ears, tails, and whatnot to knit your own customized toy, I was of course working on a kitten. It’s hard to tell in this photo (or even in real life), but the thing I’m holding is a cat body-in-progress.

me, Susan B. Anderson, and knitted kitties

I hadn’t knit any of Susan’s toy patterns before, just a hat from Itty-bitty Hats, but she’s very personable and a good teacher, the techniques she showed us for sewing toy parts together made the finishing seem less daunting, and her patterns are adorable. Although I’m still not finished knitting my kitten, I nevertheless want to knit ALL the animals! I definitely plan to take her Craftsy classes.

This is the Barn Cat from Spud & Chloë at the Farm, which is not the exact same pattern as the cat I am knitting, but he’s similar.

barn cat from Spud & Chloe at the Farm

You can see me in two class photos in Susan’s blog entry KnitEast Rewind, by the way. One of them caught me in mid-laugh, and it may well be the worst picture of me on the Internet.

On Sunday afternoon I took the Knitting for Speed and Efficiency class from Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times, I’m a slow knitter. For the past few months I’ve been even slower, since I started holding my yarn a different way in order to improve my tension. Although it has noticeably improved my tension already, I’m still not very used to it yet, so I’m even slower lately. I’d been worrying that I’d have to give up the new method of holding my yarn because I’d never be able to speed back up, but I’m less worried about that now. From the beginning of class to the end of class, my knitting speed improved from 21 stitches per minute to 24 stitches per minute (still slow, I know), even though by the end of class I was really hungry and my hands were shaking so much because of it that I’d expected to have gotten slower!

I’m always up for reading nerdy stuff about knitting history, so I already knew a lot of the things Stephanie told us about the history of knitting for money (people who got paid to knit needed to knit as fast as possible, so it makes sense to try to emulate their knitting styles), but that doesn’t mean I’d previously been any good at applying any of that info to my own knitting. Also, any topic is more entertaining when explained by Stephanie than it would be when explained by darn near anybody else in the world.

She also taught us the basics of lever knitting, and I know it’d take a lot more practice for me to be even remotely comfortable with it. Since I’m a picker, not a thrower, I can’t imagine ever using a style in which I hold the yarn in my right hand as my main style of knitting, but I should do some lever knitting practice, and also some more practice throwing as well. (I can throw, but the longer I go without practicing it, the rustier I get, obviously.)

me and Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

Clearly, the woman also has good taste, because she is planning a project in String Theory Caper Sock in the Melon and Winterberry colourways. I fell madly in love with String Theory at the KnitEast marketplace (and spent so much time hovering around their booth that the lady working there may have thought I was creepy) and Melon was one of the colours I particularly loved. I bought some Merino DK in Melon and Nectar because I think they also go together beautifully, but I have no idea as of yet what I’ll do with them.

String Theory Merino DK in Nectar and Melon

Speaking of things I met at KnitEast and fell in love with… Highland Handmades. I loved their colour names almost as much as I loved the colours themselves! I think my favourite name was This Is Just to Say, obviously the moniker of a plummy colourway. I wound up with Corriedale cross top in Bo Peep… although I loved the superwash merino/tencel in the In Like a Lion colour even more, the Corriedale was cheaper.

Highland Handmades pitch pine top in Bo Peep

Everything else I bought had a light blue theme. Fleece Artist limited release Emily, Madelinetosh Tosh Merino DK in Bloomsbury, and Madelinetosh Tosh Lace in Robin’s Egg. I also bought some pale mint green Berroco Vintage, but I wound it into centre-pull balls right away because I was going to use it during the Build a Toy Workshop on Saturday afternoon.

blue Fleece Artist and Madelinetosh from KnitEast 2013

Oh, and these are freebies that I got in my bag at registration. Something without a label that I suspect is a Blue Faced Leicester sliver from Fleece Artist, and Estelle Sakura Cotton.

roving and Sakura Cotton

Speaking of freebies, I also won an AWESOME door prize at the fashion show… a set of Addi Clicks interchangeable needles!

Addi Clicks

Plenty of other people won pretty sweet prizes, too — two pairs of limited edition addi-Art Diamond circulars with Swarovski crystals, a Namaste Harlow bag in canary yellow, kits with enough yarn to make long sweater-coats — but this is the thing I absolutely wanted the most, so I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have won it! I am beyond thrilled and will get so much use out of these needles!

The Huntsman Marine Science Centre was a very cool place to have the reception and fashion show, because we could play with the creatures in the touch pools at the Fundy Discovery Aquarium. My favourites were the skates (I was too afraid to touch a crab, because claws). I had a hard time trying to convince one to swim close enough to let me pet it, though. “Come let me love you!” I said to it, and it reacted to this the way anyone else would, by which I mean it swam off in the opposite direction. Once I did manage to pet one, though, I agreed with the girl who said it felt like a very soft gummy bear with spikes on it. The photos I tried to take at the touch pools did not turn out well, but both Susan B. Anderson and the Yarn Harlot have some photos of the sea creatures on their blogs.

The only unfortunate thing about the weekend was that I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to spend hanging out with other knitters when not in class, because my husband came to St. Andrews with me and the two of us wanted to spend some time together that weekend. We had a lovely dinner at the Europa Inn, where we were staying. I tried spätzle for the first time with my chicken cordon bleu and had a wonderful dessert involving pineapple, ice cream, and almonds. I wouldn’t have wanted less time with my husband, either, so clearly the only solution would have been for the weekend to be longer. Weekends should be longer in general, shouldn’t they? At first I regretted not being at the pre-fashion show reception as soon as it began, because then I would have had more time to check out the touch pools as well as to talk to people, but then I realized that if I hadn’t arrived at the exact time I did, I would’ve gotten a different ticket number at the door, and someone else would have gotten the number that was drawn to win the Addi Clicks. So I made my peace with that pretty easily!

I ran into Nin when I was just about to leave KnitEast and go back home to the real world. She may have mentioned that I should start blogging again, and I may have agreed with her, and so this mega-long post may be at least partially her fault.

Regarding the blog’s current look, no, it’s not going to be like this forever. I’ve been meaning to redesign the layout for ages but never got around to it. The most important thing I wanted to change, though, was making the main content area wider so that I could post images that are 500 pixels wide instead of being limited to 400 pixels. Today I just switched to a free WordPress theme that was orange-ish, since I’d like to design an orange layout when I do get around to a redesign, and this theme has plenty of room for wider images. The sidebar content completely disappeared from view because I hadn’t bothered separating design and content in my code, so changing the design currently affects the content. (I didn’t lose the stuff from the sidebar; you just can’t see it.) As long as you’ve got the ability to view the most recent posts and scroll through to the older ones, I don’t think it’s an emergency that you can’t see any of my other links right now. When I get a chance to design a new theme, I will. It’ll happen when it happens. I don’t know when, but I can at least promise you that it won’t take a year and a half!

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Let’s Be Frank

I have a theory as to how I might wind up with fewer UFOs and more finished objects, and I have Frank here to help me illustrate this theory.

Frank the Teeny Tiny Hot Dog

Admittedly, my buddy Frank illustrates the theory a bit better when you can get some more… perspective.

a hot dog in the hand

Frank is knit from Anna Hrachovec‘s pattern Tiny Hot Dog found in the book Teeny-Tiny Mochimochi: More Than 40 Itty-Bitty Minis to Knit, Wear, and Give. He was a very quick knit, even for me. The secret to keep the unfinished objects from piling up, of course, is for me to knit way more Frank-sized objects and start way fewer normal-sized ones. Then I would finish more projects instead of being distracted partway through.

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In 2003, I saw the Dogosaurus Rex sweater on the cover of the Patons book Another Dog’s Life. I thought it was the coolest thing, and I vowed that one day I would learn to knit and I would make that dog sweater.

Another Dog's Life pattern booklet

I learned to knit, but I didn’t make the dog sweater. Then I realized that my dog is sixteen years old, so I’d better get to work on Dogosaurus Rex. Now I’m at the part where I’m adding the polka dots to it in duplicate stitch, so I’ve started referring to it as Polkaroo, after the character from Polka Dot Door. I’ve also been singing the theme song, and my husband had no idea what I was going on about, because apparently he managed to go through an entire childhood in Canada in the seventies and eighties without ever having seen the show. I tried explaining it to him, but you kind of can’t.


The actor playing Polkaroo donned a tall, green plush costume that resembled a kangaroo. In its mended, yellow and multi-coloured polka-dot muumuu, the creature spoke using various repeated exclamations of its own name accompanied by elaborate gestures. The meaning of this pantomime was to be guessed by the audience.
Wikipedia contributors. “Polka Dot Door.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Children’s television is so insane.

Speaking of poking and kangaroos, today I stumbled across the Naked Knitters site, which has a knitting chart for a motif of kangaroos having sex. There are also charts for bunnies, cows, and deer doing it, but dude… kangaroos… that’s epic. I need to make a kangaroo sex hat.

Maybe not anytime soon, but someday. For the moment, it’s back to Polkaroo the Dogosaurus rex. Which is Latin for “king of the dog lizards.” Well, almost.

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How to Get a Hat out of a Rabbit

It’s much less disgusting than it sounds, I promise, because you don’t need to use the whole rabbit. No bunnies were harmed to make this hat, only defluffified a little bit.

Kitten in angora hat, side

Step 1: Obtain a skein of Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit, 90% angora and 10% nylon.

Fleece Artist Peter Rabbit

Step 2: Knit a hat. Oh, crap, I guess this isn’t as amazing a magic trick as I thought it was, apart from the fact that using sticks to turn string into clothing is always kind of magical.

Kitten in angora beret

The pattern is called Angora Beret, although it’s not really a beret, more of a Roundish Thing That Goes on Your Head. There’s a pattern on Ravelry called Angora Beret that uses Peter Rabbit, but this is not that. It’s quite similar, though.

I’m fairly certain I have enough yarn left over that I could knit a whole other hat with the rest of the skein. If getting one hat out of a rabbit isn’t a good enough magic trick, then what about getting two hats?

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In Case You Were Wondering

Our wedding was perfect.

Kitten wearing her shrug at the wedding dinner

I finished my wedding shrug in time, because “at the hairdresser’s a few hours before the ceremony” is totally “in time.” I finished the garter, too, by which I mean that my mother tied the ends of the elastics together a few minutes before the ceremony because I never got around to sewing them.

Kitten and Puppy cutting the cake

When we get the pictures from our actual photographer (the ones in this post were taken by my mother) I’ll probably post some more photos, but my husband doesn’t like his picture posted online, so there won’t be any photos of him in which I don’t crop out his head.

Oh, and I finished the rushnyk in time, too.

wedding rushnyk

I’m still exhausted from all the wedding stuff, although we got married a week and a half ago — I’m also getting over a cold — but I figure I can sleep after KnitEast.

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Have You Found My Green Ribbon?

A few nights ago I dreamed that the seamstress who is sewing ribbon around the edge of my wedding veil showed me the turquoise ribbon she was using and it was WAY TOO GREEN, and I was upset. This dream is tantamount to a sign saying WELCOME TO CRAZYVILLE. POPULATION: YOU.

The wedding shrug, however, is coming along. I am in the process of turning this (Handmaiden Double Sea Silk in the Topaz colourway)

ball of turquoise Double Sea Silk

into this, and so far it is looking something like this

Little Silk Shrug in progress

and I think it’s coming along rather well, knock on wood.

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Lately, it’s been all about the shrugs.

side view of Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug

The recently-finished shrug is the Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug by Stefanie Japel, in Cascade 220, colours Silver Grey and Cotton Candy.

Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug from front

The actual knitting went fairly quickly, but I agonized over seaming the sleeves for a while. See, I am a slow knitter, and also a lazy one, which means I knit a lot of accessories as they are (supposedly) quicker than knitting garments. Which means I don’t do a whole lot of seaming. But I am also an obsessive perfectionist, which means that I want the seams to be done right. Hence the agonizing.

back view of Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug

I’m pleased with how it turned out, though, and now I can focus my attention on the next shrug. In fact, I don’t think I’m even going to be wearing this shrug anytime soon, because I intended to use it as warm-up clothing at ballet class (hence the black leotard in the photos), but now that it’s summer I’ll probably be too hot if I wear something made of wool in the dance studio. So I guess I’ll keep wearing a T-shirt over my leotard until fall or winter. Or I might just decide the shrug is too pretty to sweat on and it’ll become regular everyday wear instead.

front view of Two-Tone Ribbed Shrug

The shrug I am currently working on is my wedding shrug. I hope, I hope. It depends how it turns out. Which is why I am knitting an extremely easy lace pattern. It may be the easiest lace pattern I have ever seen. Yet I still manage to make mistakes, of course. In addition to being easy, it is also very small, so in theory, it shouldn’t take long. This does not keep me from being anxious about it, though. Excuse me, I think I have to go knit a bit on the shrug now in order to keep from panicking.

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