Hello to my lovely knitter friends! Do you ever feel like you’ve been split into so many pieces that you’ll either split apart or grow tentacles? Right now, I am a mostly happy octopus (metaphorically, of course) who sometimes feels like a broken umbrella.
I like to have a few things on the go because I like rotating between projects and disciplines. I even have multiple — many — countless — knitting projects on needles at all times. I work on them based on each day’s needs: stimulating or soothing, working or playing, designing or learning, interesting or urgent.
In the same way, I love teaching many different classes at a few locations. I get to meet so many lovely people! And I get to soak in the glorious and diverse atmospheres at the local yarn shops in my area. Right before the at-home times, I was teaching in most of Ottawa’s yarn shops almost weekly. It was so fun! But of course, then we all had to stay home, so I pivoted to teaching over Zoom and painting at home. I’d been longing for the time to improve my acrylic-paint-handling skills, so I used painting to propel me through the long weeks.
Right now, at the near-end of August, my brain is very full of “launching” our two oldest teenagers out into the universe of … university and college. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.) We are packing and checklisting and knitting our way through our very big feelings about this. They’re almost ready to go, so today I find myself here, writing to you. There are only so many closets I can clean before I need a break, even though now the closets are half-out on the table and not remotely looking “clean,” just exposed. But I reassure myself that as soon as the oldest has moved into his dorm, his piles of packing will go with him. And I’ll eventually figure out where to move that little pile of mysterious metal bits and old pins and tiny sunglasses for toddlers. Like, why do we have all these old, dead cell phones? It isn’t for nostalgia, I can assure you.
I’m looking forward to September 5th, the first official day of Having the House to Myself for A Few Hours. I’ll probably spend most of it baking brownies and thinking about how the kids are doing, but still. Glorious solitude! I can almost touch it.
And then, I’ll become nice and busy, myself. I’ll be teaching four knitting classes a week (two at the space I rent, and two at Maker Savvy in Kanata), as well as painting and filling custom painting orders. I’ve been working on building up my art business and neglecting my pattern writing, but I love teaching so much. I joined my local arts guild, and we’ll have an art show in the fall (November 18-19th! Save the date!), and a few weekends before that, I’ll be teaching a workshop at a knitting retreat. Thank goodness I have so many lovely things to look forward to! They’ll keep me busy while I’m missing kid #1. Kid #2 will be commuting to school from home, so although I’m sure he’ll be so busy we’ll barely see him, I should find him in the kitchen now and then.
For those of you counting, that will leave 3 whole other kids still at home. But after all those years of chasing toddlers and dragging recalcitrant kids out on shopping trips because they couldn’t stay home alone, we’ve mostly graduated to having All Teenagers. The last one will join the teen category later this fall. It is amazing and weird and wonderful.
So now that you’re all caught up, here are some key dates coming up this fall:
September 12th: Learn to Knit with me for 6 weeks at Maker Savvy in Kanata
October 24th: Learn how to read your knitting and fix mistakes with me at Maker Savvy (one small workshop)
November 3rd: Knitting retreat (I think it’s probably sold out by now)
November 18-19th: North Grenville Arts Guild’s WonderFALL Art Show in Kemptville
November 14th: Learn Brioche Knitting at Maker Savvy (4 weeks)
December 12th: Christmas Project Workshop at Maker Savvy
I’d really love it if you joined me for a knitting class this fall! And would you mind taking a look at my paintings and telling me what you think? I really love doing custom pieces, and wouldn’t it be so cute to do paintings of favourite old knitted items or colourful skeins of yarn? I have so many ideas.
Hello, my knitting friends! My fall knitting classes are right around the corner. How was your summer?
I’m enjoying the last of our summer weather, but I have to confess: I’m starting to think about autumn and all the coziness it brings. My yearly urge to watch You’ve Got Mail (“Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.”) is getting stronger and stronger. I’m holding off until at least Labour Day weekend. Probably.
I’ve already been back-to-school shopping, hunting for uniform pieces for my kids and making lists of who needs how many pencils and shoes. My oldest has graduated high school (!!!!), and my youngest will be starting in junior high. I’m freaking out. Those years when it seemed like they’d be small forever have gone by waaaay more quickly than my own childhood felt. Now I have a house full of tall, muscular man-children and a pre-teen girl. We buy a lot of groceries, but their wittiness and hilarity has only increased with age, so I’m having a great time in general.
In knitting news, I’ve been working on two brioche pieces, a shawl and a scarf, using a swirly pattern that I find really addicting. I’m working on writing up the patterns. I’ve taken such a long hiatus from pattern writing! Right after the stay-at-home orders first started, my computer crashed, and I lost a lot of things, including the patterns I’d been writing at the time. It was just too much for my brain and heart to handle, so I decided not to think about it. And then I took a long break from creative knitting; I kept teaching my classes (over Zoom), but my own knitting projects were of the comfort-knitting variety: plain socks, tiny birds (from Arne & Carlos’ book Field Guide to Knitted Birds), happy mittens.
I turned all my creative energy, at that time, to practicing my painting and drawing skills. I’d been longing for more painting time, and suddenly I had only time on my hands! Since I was lucky enough to have the safety and space, I really focused on developing my paint-handling skills. I decided to systematically experiment with various acrylic painting skills, colour mixing, and anatomy drawing.
You know what? All the things I’d learned from knitting and teaching were enormously helpful. And the books I’ve been reading lately (see below) have amplified and explained a lot of what worked and why. (I love reading about brains and learning; it helps me with my knitting classes, but also with my own life.)
What I Learned About Learning from Knitting
Mistakes are part of the process
First tries are never perfect, and sometimes they’re even hideous, but they’re necessary projects to make before you can get to the good stuff
There are tips and tricks out there for any new skill, and sometimes I struggle with things that I could have found better advice for; so now, I search for the advice
Trial and error are great teachers
A good teacher can tell you things you didn’t even know you needed to search for
When I’m struggling to understand something, that doesn’t mean I’m bad at it and should stop; it means I’m in the process of learning how to be good at it
There’s no such thing as failure. A mess is a potential learning experience, a necessary piece of information on the road to mastery. The only way to “fail” is to stop trying in new ways.
We all learn and assimilate information and muscle-memory skills in slightly different ways. Being proactive about finding the right-for-you sources of learning makes things a lot easier. (Personally, I like a good diagram, and I need to try something myself before I really understand it.)
The more mental models we have in our brains, the easier it is to understand new information. But it takes time to build the mental models.
Skills take time to acquire and settle in. I need to give myself time before lamenting that I’m terrible at anything. (Weird example: I don’t kill house plants anymore! I killed an ivy plant once and then called myself a plant killer for years. It turns out that I just needed to look up a few tips, keep the plants in the kitchen where I’d see them every day, and stop drowning them.)
I’d been wanting to paint for years, but two big things were stopping me: I had undiagnosed ADHD, and I had terrible self talk. I thought that if my natural talent couldn’t make a good painting, then maybe I wasn’t that good, after all. And my brain kept changing channels away from painting, so when the negative thoughts started, I had no internal resources to carry me through. I had zero grit. I gave up on things when they got hard. And I didn’t understand how my own brain worked.
Mastery, Deliberate Practice, and Grit
In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth writes about her research into high achievers and what sets them apart. It turns out that the predictive element wasn’t talent or aptitude or intelligence, or any of the things most of us would assume. It was (surprise!) their grittiness. They were dogged in their pursuit of their goals.
“They were the opposite of complacent. And yet, in a very real sense, they were satisfied being unsatisfied. Each was chasing something of unparalleled interest and importance, and it was the chase — as much as the capture — that was gratifying.” ~ Angela Duckworth
In the book Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson and Robert Pool, the authors delve into the adaptability of our brains. It turns out — and you’ve probably noticed this already — that our abilities are not fixed, that “the brain — even the adult brain — is far more adaptable than anyone ever imagined and this gives us tremendous control over what our brains are able to to. In particular, the brain responds to the right sorts of triggers by rewiring itself in various ways.” New connections can be made in our brains, and existing pathways can be weakened or strengthened. Our brains physically change as we learn new things and acquire new skills.
“Why are some people so amazingly good at what they do? Over my years of studying experts in various fields, I have found that they all develop their abilities in much the same way… — through dedicated training that drives changes in the brain (and sometimes, depending on the ability, in the body) that make it possible for them to do things that they otherwise could not.” ~ Anders Ericsson
Talent (how quickly we acquire new skills) and genetics play a small part, but effort and perseverance win in the end.
I love this. I love telling my kids that if they can find just one thing that sparks their interest enough to drive and sustain them through a life of effort and deliberate practice, they can become masterful at it. They don’t need to start with special talent or be the best at it in their class. Those things won’t help them in the long run.
As a recovering giver-upper, I’m also relieved to know that grit is another skill that can be built into the brain through deliberate practice. I don’t need to be good at everything (and that’s impossible anyway), and I don’t need to see instant results. All I need to do is keep showing up and practicing, keep making messes and learning to troubleshoot, and keep experimenting.
Mastery isn’t an end point, it’s a lifestyle. Sarah Lewis writes in The Rise, “The pursuit of mastery is an ever onward almost.” “Masters are not experts because they take a subject to its conceptual end. They are masters because they realize that there isn’t one. On utterly smooth ground, the path from aim to attainment is in the permanent future.”
She gives so many examples of high achievers who won awards and gained “success” (recognition, money, fame, etc.) and traced their paths backward in time to find what came first. Their paths toward Nobel prizes or great discoveries or incredible novels were littered with spectacular failures. The difference was, they kept going. Instead of becoming stopping points, those moments were waypoints and learning experiences.
Sometimes the mistakes themselves became literal breakthroughs. You just don’t know until you give yourself the freedom to experiment in ridiculous ways. Until you allow your projects to be risky and imperfect.
Creativity and innovation can only exist in spaces free from judgment. “During improvisation, areas of a musician’s brain involved in self expression lit up and parts that control self-judgment were suppressed, freeing up all generative impulses. Neuroscientists describe this permissive state where the mind allows for failure without self-condemnation as disassociation in the frontal lobe. The rest of us call it the basic tenet of improvisation in jazz — not to negate, but to accept all that comes and add to it, the foibles, the mistakes, the exquisite beauty and joy.” ~ Sarah Lewis
You Can Knit Anything
This is why I really believe that you can knit anything. It might not be literally true today, but with deliberate practice and a lot of fun, there’s no reason why we can’t each build up whatever new skills we choose to put on our lists.
Of course, there are only so many hours in a day, and our unique interests are really what drive us onward in our obsessions (ahem) passions. I will never become a master at auto repair or doing my laundry. I’m happy to be good enough at baking, and I don’t feel the need to become a pastry chef. It’s okay to keep knitting as a fun hobby without turning it into a big thing. We each get to choose our own things.
Anyway, whatever your thing is, I’m here to help you with your knitting.
These classes are friendly, welcoming spaces for knitters of all skill levels. The students choose the subject each day with their current projects and questions. I often find myself revitalizing projects that have been stuck in time-out for a long time, matching the knitting to the lost pattern row, interpreting sweater fitting instructions, teaching finishing techniques, explaining how to work special techniques like two-handed colourwork or brioche, fitting socks, starting someone on their knitting journey with their first project… I love to be surprised! And on days when the knitting is going smoothly for everyone, the class becomes a show-and-tell and knitting club.
So grab your knitting friends and bring your yarn and needles, and let’s have some fun!
To my regular students: you’ll notice a few changes. There will be a strict four-person minimum of monthly students for a class to run. Two days before the start of each class, I’ll send an email to confirm that the class is on. I’ll open up the drop-in class option once I know the class will be running.
There will be one class on Sunday afternoons from 2-4 pm, and a class on Tuesday mornings from 10-noon.
And, like everything else lately, the prices have gone up. I feel big feelings about this, but it’s a necessary evil to keep the classes sustainable.
And now, I’m off to daydream about cozy, cabled sweaters and cute fall mittens. I can’t wait to see you and your projects in September!
I have missed my students so much. I’m so happy to announce that I’ve booked my previous space, and I’m ready to resume teaching knitting while in the same room as other people!!!
So, if you’ve been missing that hands-on instruction and help, I really hope you’ll join me. I can’t wait to dive in and get my (sanitized) hands all over your knitting projects! Some problems really do get solved more easily in person, when I can see them up close. (Although, I’m really pleased with how much turned out to be possible over Zoom.)
I think our knitting-together reunion is going to be so great. I’ve been thinking of all of you, wondering how you’re doing (and what you’ve been knitting, of course!), and missing your faces and stories and personalities. I get to meet the coolest people at my knitting classes.
To ease us back in to meeting in person, let’s acknowledge that it’s going to be weird. It’s been awkward and a bit unnerving to re-emerge from my home cocoon. I think we’re all feeling a mixture of excitement and anxiety, especially since COVID isn’t gone. So let’s lean in to the weirdness together and make space for each others’ discomfort. It’s a normal feeling, and I expect everyone to have varying levels of comfort with their personal space and health concerns.
I will have a mask with me, and I’m happy to wear it, especially when you need hands-on help. You may choose to wear a mask or not, and you won’t have to explain your decision to any of us. Do what feels best for your own health and peace of mind. I’ll also bring my hand sanitizer to use between projects. (I splurged and got a lovely moisturizing one from Rocky Mountain Soap Company after the first year of dry and irritated skin, so my hands can now handle frequent sanitizing.) We’ll be able to open a window in our knitting space to bring in fresh air, and if anyone wants to sit apart or hide away in a corner, no one will bat an eye. We’re all figuring this out as we go.
New and returning students are all very welcome! I really hope everyone will pop in for at least one class just to say hi. 🙂 And please bring your pandemic projects for some show and tell. I’d love to see what you made at home. I made a lot of really plain, soothing, low-concentration things. I designed zero new things over the last 2 years. But I sure knit a ton of stripey socks and Musselburgh hats! And I did practice my painting a lot. I suppose all my creative brain power went into the paintings instead of the knitting.
Thank you all for being part of my knitting circle. The best thing about knitting together is how much I end up learning from you — the incredible range of personalities, professions, interests, favourite colours, and, of course, book recommendations. My life is so much bigger because of all of you.
I hope you’re well, and I can’t wait to see you.
We start back in person April 24th. In the meantime, happy knitting!
To celebrate my fortieth birthday, I think a pattern sale is in order!
If you hop on over to Ravelry, this link will take you right to my patterns, and anything you put in your cart will automatically have 40% of its price taken off. There are no limits, no minimum purchases, just a pure 40% discount. (Except on Sugarblaze because it’s still only available from Knit Picks.)
It’s really fun to go back through some of my older designs! A lot has happened since I published my first pattern.
I actually like getting older. I feel more and more comfortable in my own skin. It’s wonderful to be growing up. (My kids think I’m a grown-up by default, but we all know better. Being “grown up” is more of a process than a destination. I hope.)
So, because I’m feeling celebratory and forty years is a big thing, here are my favourite things about getting older:
I’m letting go of more and more fear. Life is just too short to give one moment of it to being afraid.
So I’m doing more of what I like, for me. I cut my hair short, and it feels amazing. I wear what I want. (Secret pajamas for the win! Bright tunic tops and leggings for me, please. With pockets.)
I know my strengths and talents now, and it’s not boasting to acknowledge them to myself. I owe it to myself to develop them and let them grow into something.
I know my weaknesses, too, and I’m over them. They’re there, we’re friends, and everybody’s got them anyway. None of us are perfect at everything we try, and I’m okay with that. I will always be late for most of my appointments because time doesn’t make sense to me, but I can paint an accurate portrait, and I can live with that.
I know which weaknesses can be improved upon, shored up, or accepted and worked around. I don’t need as much reassurance from others that I’m okay, and I just smile and nod now when people give me tips. I know the tips. I’ve read the books. But I spent so many years trying to be better at what I hate instead of mastering the things I’m great at. Onward to better things!
I know that what I KNEW to be true ten years ago is different from what I KNOW right now. So I hold my opinions more loosely and look to learn more.
I know that the opposite of love is fear. To love well means to let go of the fear — of being a bad parent, or a goofy teacher, or whatever. Any time I’ve operated out of fear, I’ve been harsh with my kids, nitpicked about details instead of seeing the whole person in front of me. If I teach out of fear, I don’t learn new things myself. When I’m afraid of what people think of me, I can’t be myself.
Fear is a tool for reading a situation, but not for long-term decisions. I listen to my instincts and trust them more and more, and that’s useful. So I don’t want to live in a vacuum free of fear, but I want to be mindful that I listen to its message, take it into account, and then act bravely from my values instead.
I’m more patient with others. If I can grow, so can anyone. When I say a dumb thing, I usually regret it and learn from it. Allowing others room for that same growth is essential. I choose to hope for and expect the best, to leave room for growth, to wait patiently while others walk their own paths. To cheer them on along the way. Life is hard enough without having people pick apart your every mistake.
I give myself more of a break. Bad days don’t last. Nothing lasts forever. Seasons pass, winter turns into spring, and depression lifts eventually. Sometimes, life is a bit of a waiting game, and now I can accept that more.
My body affects my moods, and I’ve learned to baby it. Give it naps, make sure it drinks enough water and gets good food. Give it down time. I refuse to live on the brink of a constant nervous breakdown. I take care of this squishy vehicle I drive through life. (I do feed it too much ice cream lately, but whatever.)
I love saying no. I build empty space into my schedule because I have lived without margins, and let me tell you, it was not life. It was overwhelm, stress, exhaustion, irritability, and loss of creativity. The blank spaces are essential components of a kind, creative life.
Every hour devoted to playing the piano, painting, drawing, or reading, is an hour that feeds the hard-work, slogging hours of productivity. They are absolutely essential. Feeding the creative soul is never a waste of time.
Art IS math and science. Music, colour, proportion, pattern — it’s math, electromagnetic radiation, wavelengths, rhythm, algebra. The language of the universe is instinctually known by artists and painstakingly calculated by mathematicians and interpreted and investigated by scientists. They are different sides of the same coin.
The opposite of fear is love. Love is patient and kind. Choosing to love means to decide not to act out of fear: no boasting (fear that you’re not enough), no rudeness (fear that you won’t get what you need so you rush in to get what’s yours, disregarding the humanity of those around you), no envy (fear of scarcity), no pride (fear of not being the best), no keeping records of everything anyone has ever done that harmed you (fear of injustice). And the good news is that loving frees us from the fear that holds us back from being ourselves.
Best books I’ve read so far: Daring Greatly, Braving the Wilderness, and Rising Strong (all 3 by Brene Brown); The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron; Superparenting for ADHD by Edward Hallowell; anything by Rachel Held Evans, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle. The Gift of Fear by Gavin deBecker. Norman Doidge’s books on neuroplasticity.
Favourite quotes from the past few years: “I belong to myself” ~ from Maya Angelou, but I found it in Brene Brown’s Braving the Wilderness, I think. I belong everywhere, I belong nowhere: I belong to myself. I move freely throughout the world, in any setting, because I belong.
“We can do hard things.” ~ Glennon Doyle
Thing I said so many times to my kids that I started to believe it and say it to myself: “Of course you’re not good at that yet! This is the first time you’ve tried it. You won’t get any good at all until you’ve tried it at least ten times. You have to make a million mistakes before you get really good at things.”
Things Knitting Taught Me About Life
Making mistakes is inevitable. The important thing isn’t avoiding making them, it’s learning to fix them or live with them.
Ripping out is part of knitting. Making mistakes is part of life. Moving backwards isn’t a thing — every fall, failure, setback, is part of the path. Carry on.
You can’t judge a project by its beginning. You need at least a few inches, a gauge swatch, and sometimes blocking before you can get a good view.
The first step of learning a new skill is: awkwardness. Incredible, tangly, confusing awkwardness. Messes. Feeling like you’re all thumbs, like your brain is exhausted and maybe even melted. This is normal. Push through and carry on.
Every knitter has a different level of experience and skill. Comparing yourself to others is like comparing a first dishcloth to a masterful Fair Isle sweater. It’s unfair to compare first steps to 400th ones. You’re on different paths with different rates of learning. Just keep knitting; you’ll get there, too.
Stop and look. Notice details. It helps.
Counting is hard. Seriously, be kind to yourself and use stitch markers. Sometimes it’s the simple things that are the easiest to mess up. It means nothing other than: Counting Is Hard.
Trying to fix mistakes when you’re tired makes them worse. Go to sleep and reset your brain. Things will be clearer in the morning.
I made a video that shows how to fix brioche! It’s up on my YouTube channel, and you can find it here.
Fixing a dropped stitch in brioche is just like fixing a dropped stitch in stockinette, but there are yarnover buddies in the way. The trick was figuring out what to do with those yarnovers. I like to tell my students that in brioche, every stitch gets a yarnover buddy, and no buddy gets left behind. This applies to the dropped stitches, too. It’s why my cutesy little rhyme works:
Grab the stitch,
Pull it through.
How to pick up a dropped stitch in brioche:
First, put the dropped stitch onto a crochet hook. Then:
Over one (buddy) — Find the buddy that’s tight against the stitch under your crochet hook, and leave it alone. Let the crochet hook go OVER it without bothering it, and then go…
Under two buddies to find the next stitch. Sometimes the next stitch is already a bit closer, and if it is, that’s okay, grab it! But if it’s gotten completely out of place, and you’re not sure which buddies to tuck it behind before it can be pulled through the stitch on your hook, two is the magic number.
Once you’ve woven the crochet hook through the buddies in this order, Grab the dropped stitch.
Pull it through the stitch on the crochet hook. You’ll be threading back down behind the two buddies and in front of the one but leaving them alone otherwise. Don’t pull any buddies through the stitches.
By passing the crochet hook over the first buddy in your first step, you’re essentially leaving that buddy to hang out forever with the stitch below. Just make sure it is, in fact, only one buddy and not two mushed together and trying to trick you. Be bossy with those buddies and put them in their places so every stitch gets one buddy.
What do you think? Could you fix your brioche now? Let me know if you try this and how it works for you!
You guys, I can’t believe August is almost over! What did you do this summer?
Here’s my knitting news:
New patterns out this summer and fall: Talamed
Continuing my love of slip stitches and all things reversible, I’ve made a cardigan pattern inspired by the Book of Kells! You can find it in Carol Feller’s new book, Echoes of Heather and Stone, along with many other simply gorgeous patterns, all inspired by ancient Ireland.
She interviewed me about my design, and if you’d like to read it (and watch a recording of our Instagram live chat, in which I felt slightly awkward but prevailed), you can find them on her website, Stolen Stitches, here.
A squishy, almost geometric, brioche shawl pattern. Also reversible. 🙂
Engaging, constantly changing, full of small repeats. Get started with mosaic knitting!
If you follow me on Instagram, maybe you’ve been knitting along on a Mosaica shawl! It’s been great fun to watch everyone’s shawls growing. I love all the colour choices; seriously, I haven’t seen a bad one yet.
Check them all out there by searching the #MosaicaKAL hashtag, and you can even still join in! It’s a very low-stress knitalong. Just post photos of your shawl in progress with that tag, and tag me as well @aknitica. I’ll be announcing the prizes soon (since August is almost over!), and I’ll be scrolling through the tagged posts and randomly pointing at pictures to pick a few winners. Free patterns, anyone? And don’t forget, the Mosaica pattern is free on Ravelry until the end of August. Grab it quickly before the sale is over!
My monthly fall classes start in September, and if you’re in the Ottawa area, there’s still time to register!
Click on the little Google Calendar widget in the sidebar to see my complete schedule. (You can even import your class to your own Google Calendar from there!)
I’ll be teaching my own knit-anything classes at Rideau Park on Alta Vista, which you can sign up for right here. These are my weekly clubs in which you can bring absolutely anything knitting related to get my help. We can fix anything! I can also help you knit a sweater, some socks, a lace shawl… whatever you want. Anything goes.
Wabi Sabi on Wellington has invited me to teach a brioche cowl class, some knit-any-project classes, and a continental knitting workshop this fall. Go to their website to register. I will definitely teach you how to fix brioche if you ask!
I’ll be at Maker Savvy in Kanata on Thursday afternoons and evenings. Check out their website after September 1st to see the schedule and to register! Expect classes on my reversible cable technique, a brioche shawl, mosaic knitting, and Fair Isle mittens in which we make the ever-ridiculously-adorable Tiny-Santa mittens.
My summer was really great.
We took the kids to the Toronto Zoo and Ripley’s Aquarium, spent some time at the cottage, and then lounged around the house. I took a week-long “Alla Prima Portraiture” class (that’s just fancy speak for all-at-once portrait painting, which is kind of crazy and fun. You basically just throw a painting together in a few hours, starting with the big shadow and highlight shapes, then gradually refining them into a recognizable human being. I’m still practicing.)
To end the summer, we bought a puppy. I kid you not. I must have lost my mind, but I’m glad I did. He’s fantastic, and my kids are fully occupied with snuggling him and taking him for walks and playing tug of war with his tiny rope toy.
That’s all for now! I hope to see you this fall, whether it’s in person at a class, or online on Instagram or Facebook. 🙂 Happy knitting!
My yarn shop is closing! I’ve been teaching knitting classes at Yarn Forward & Sew On in Ottawa for the last 4 years, and it has been heavenly. The owner, Carol, is retiring, and June 30th will be the last day of Yarn Forward. It seems so surreal.
So what will happen now? Well, I’ll keep teaching. It’s my thing.
Summer Knitting Classes
If you’re going to be around Ottawa this summer, let’s knit together! I’m going to run Sunday afternoon and Tuesday morning knitting classes, and we’ll be knitting in a comfy, couch-laden space at Rideau Park United Church on Alta Vista Drive in Ottawa.
If you’re visiting the city on vacation, you can sign up to drop in for one class. It would be great to meet in person!
The summer classes will be of the “knit your own project” variety. You bring whatever you’re working on, and I’ll help you in any way you like. If you need to learn a new cast on to go with your pattern, no problem. Or maybe you’re looking for help turning a sock heel or making a sweater or learning brioche. Bring anything. We’ll figure it out.
I have some new patterns, too! The latest is Kairos, a squishy brioche shawl. You can grab it here or on Ravelry.
Knitting In Ottawa
Ottawa is such a great city for knitters! Even with Yarn Forward closing, there’s a great selection of yarn shops around and knitterly things to do. If you’re travelling and looking for Ottawa yarn shops, let me get you started:
Wabi Sabi is close to downtown and full of cool knitting and spinning supplies.
In the west end, Yarn Forward in Kanata will be replaced by a new yarn shop, Yarns Ewe’ll Love!, in the same location with the same lovely Louise. She already has a Facebook page up!
In the east end, Wool N’Things in Orleans is packed full of treasures.
Middle/south is Wool-Tyme, a HUGE yarn shop; I think they say they’re the biggest in Canada?
The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum isn’t exactly a yarn shop, but it’s a working farm that you can tour that has sheep and mohair goats!
Upper Canada Village, south of Ottawa along the St. Lawrence River, is one of those old-timey villages where actors pretend they’re from the past and are confused by your smartphones. They have fresh bread, cheese, a working old spinning mill, and yarn! Very woolly yarn from their sheep.
Alpaca Tracks T(h)read Lightly is an alpaca farm out in the country south of the city, not far from highway 416, and with a little farm store full of alpaca things.
If you go a little further south, you’ll find Louet just outside Prescott! They have a little shop, Hilltop Wool Boutique, to visit.
In nearby Perth, there’s Unraveled, a fantastic yarn shop full of good stuff.
Smiths Falls boasts Yarns Aplenty. I still need to visit that one!
Sheeps Ahoy! is actually a mostly mail-order Canadian source for Jamieson & Smith yarns from Shetland, but if you make an appointment, Deb will show you every single Jamieson & Smith colour available. She carries the entire line, here in Ottawa!
We’ve got local indie dyers and fibre festivals, as well! Depending on when you’re visiting, you might find a festival nearby in Almonte (Fibrefest), Kemptville (Leeds Grenville Fibre Extravaganza), Picton (Prince Edward County Fibre Fest), and in Ottawa (Lansdowne Textiles Festival). Am I missing any?
Jo-Ann of Yarn Forward & Sew On will be opening up a sewing store with all the Husqvarna sewing machines and classes and repairs in August. It’s called Sew-Jo’s, at 405 St. Laurent Boulevard. She’s hard at work getting it ready to open.
I want to list all our local indie dyers by name, too, but maybe I’ll save that for another day’s post. There are so many great ones.
If there’s a local yarn shop I’ve forgotten or haven’t learned about yet, please tell me. Isn’t our area great? Maybe I’ll see you around Ottawa this summer!
It’s that time of year — when I always want something wrapped around my neck.
I have a serious obsession with knitting shawls, so my closet is getting pretty full of various neck-warming devices. And yet, I still want to make more… (I picked up a copy of WestKnits BestKnits recently, and now I want to make all the things. My Christmas present to me might be the casting-on of a speckly Dotted Rays.)
I do like it best when my neck things are reversible, when they’re made with some sort of simple stitch pattern so I don’t have to always be looking at the pattern, and when I’ve chosen good yarn.
I mentioned them earlier, but our fall/winter has been a whirlwind of new school, more teaching, and my glitchy brain, so I’ve been having trouble writing about them here. Anyway, this family of shawls grew from a weird convergence of coincidences: a Julie Asselin gradient kit I bought at Wabi Sabi in the summer, Mosaic Knitting by Barbara Walker, and my desire to knit something new while reading a book. Yes, I like to read and knit.
For simplicity and reading: garter stitch.
From Mosaic Knitting: the magical inspiration of slipped stitches. But why couldn’t they be used to make something reversible? Why not slip them on the back AND the front of the fabric?
Because of the gradient: I don’t know. I just wanted to pair it with something to make it stretch… I tried it with a couple of colours before I decided on white as the true friend for the mini-skeins.
I’m also a fan of the asymmetrical triangle framework I first found in Martina Behm’s patterns. I’ve always assumed she invented this shape. Does anyone know any different?
Once I got going on One, and I was having such a good time, I got carried away; my mind flew off in a million directions, following all the possibilities of the twists and turns of reversible slipped stitch columns. What if I made them like travelling stitches? What if I let the shaping dictate their intervals? What if I used Morse code? What if I used TWO gradients?
And a collection was born.
As of yesterday, Fade & Flip, the fourth and last pattern in the collection has been published on Ravelry. I’m really pleased with all four of the shawls, and I hope you will be, too.
(Did I mention that three MORE of my kids need braces? Gah.)
They were slower coming out than I’d planned, and I’m sorry about that. I’ve learned many things while making my first ebook, and the number one thing is this: life gets in the way, and I’m going to make sure the patterns are written BEFORE promising a specific publishing schedule. So thank you for being patient with me while waiting for the fourth pattern!
reversible — a complete mirror of beautiful stitches on both sides. There are no real “wrong” sides. Everything is public-ready.
inverted — if the slipped-stitch columns are MC on one side, they’ll be CC on the other side, and vice versa.
made from two colours (or one solid and one gradient, or two gradients). Basically, an MC and a CC.
knitable with 100 grams of each colour, no matter what the weight of yarn. Different weight change the stitch pattern, of course, but it works for the first three shawls (One, Two, and Three Secrets) completely. For the fourth, Fade & Flip, I’d recommend sticking with either fingering or sport weight so you can fit in as many Celtic Knots as possible.
an asymmetrical triangle shape, long and somewhat shallow, and great for wrapping around your neck many times as a warm scarf or around your shoulders for a cozy wrap.
started with just 4 stitches and cast off along the long edge.
built on a garter-stitch base, with the same rhythm of slipped stitches. Once you’ve knit One, you’ll recognize many familiar elements in the other three, which makes upgrading to the travelling columns much easier. Even if you knit just a tiny sample of One as a swatch, it’ll help you understand the basics before you start cabling on Two and Fade & Flip.
adjustable in size: these patterns don’t really end. You could knit them infinitely large…. just cast off when you’ve run out of yarn or when you’ve reached the size you want.
wearable without blocking. They’re garter stitch! Although I did find that Fade & Flip looked better with light blocking because of the cables. Anyway, doesn’t that make them perfect gifts? 😉
charted AND written. Because I know there are two types of knitters, and they’re both fierce about their pattern preferences.
And One makes good tv knitting (and reading knitting!) once you get going. It’s mesmerizing.
[box type=”note” size=”large” icon=”none”]You can buy each pattern individually on Ravelry, but the best deal is to get the ebook, of course. You can find them all here: Inverse Reverse on Ravelry[/box]
I hope you all have a great holiday, whatever it is you’re celebrating. 🙂 May your gifts be full of yarn and your hearts be full of peace.
You guys, I am so excited about what I’ve been working on lately. I wanted to make myself a reversible, graphic, simple, shawl that was enjoyable to knit while I read a book. The obvious stitch to choose was garter stitch, but I had bought a gorgeous Julie Asselin gradient kit recently, and I really wanted to use it in something interesting.
After some trial and error, I finally settled on pairing it with a white skein of Cascade Heritage Silk from my stash. (I love how the white makes the turquoises look light and airy.) I started with my favourite easy-to-begin shawl shape, the asymmetrical triangle that grows from just a few stitches designed originally (I think) by Martina Behm.
And then, I started to play with slipped stitches. I wanted a straightforward, repeatable, reversible pattern. I wanted it a little interesting to knit and to look at, but I wanted to let the gradient be the star of the show.
Here’s what happened:
This is One. It came first.
Did I mention the One shawl is reversible? Like, completely perfect on both the right side and wrong side of the fabric?
The wrong side is actually an inversion of the right-side columns, so you can choose which side you’re in the mood for on any given day. The light side or the bright side… or maybe the bright side or the dark side, depending on your colour choice.
I’m so happy with it! I hope you like it, too. It’s so wearable, so easy, so simple, that I’m almost afraid to publish it. Maybe you won’t think it’s special enough. But I like the good classics, and I think this shawl will become a pattern I return to knitting and to wearing over and over again. It’s even good gift knitting, since it requires no blocking whatsoever because of the nicely behaved garter stitch. (I always want to give the people I love beautiful shawls, but the prospect of then explaining to them that they’ll have to handwash it and block out the lace to open it up every time it needs cleaning is so off-putting.)
Slip-stitch knitting is so fun, too. What I like is how it makes those beautiful vertical lines that you don’t often get in knitting unless you know stranded knitting or intarsia. But to make them with slipped stitches is sooo easy. You never have to use two colours in a row. Only one. Always just one strand of yarn at a time.
You’ll get a complex look with a simple technique. It’s so fun!
And then, to add on to all that goodness, there’s the shape: I love this shape. For so many reasons. How do I love it? Let me count the ways:
It grows from a tiny point, so the cast on and start up are fast and easy.
It grows from a tiny point and ends with a cast-off along one whole side of the triangle, so you can knit it up to any size using ANY weight of yarn without doing any calculations at all; you just knit until you’re done and then you stop. I’ve practiced it with fingering-weight, worsted weight, and sport weight so far. Using 100g in each of two colours makes a lovely size of shawl no matter which weight you choose. (This also makes it a good project for any hand-spun yarn that doesn’t necessarily align with a standard factory-spun weight.)
It’s easy to wear. Sure, it makes a triangle, but it’s a versatile, shallow, curvy triangle that makes a lovely scarf/wrap/kerchief/long blanket/cozy magical thing.
So then I got a little carried away by the joy that is reversible slipped-stitch columns, and I wanted to see what they’d look like traveling and twirling around each other on both sides of the fabric. So I made more shawls…. and they’ve grown into a collection. There were just too many fun possibilities to try!
The Inverse Reverse Collection is an ebook that grows by one shawl every month for the next 4 months. So when you buy the ebook, you’ll get a shawl subscription to every reversible slip-stitch pattern that’s coming up this fall, at a discounted price.
Here’s a little preview of what’s coming up:
Meet Two, a reversible shawl with a twist.
It’s coming out at the end of August.
And then, there will be Three.
You can see sneak peaks of it in my Instagram feed (@aknitica), in a gorgeous pink gradient paired with light grey. Its birthday will be the end of September.
Four will feature the return of reversible cables in a new configuration.
Let’s leave it mysterious for now, and look forward to its release at the end of October 2016.
For now, if you’re intrigued, the best place to start is by knitting up your own version of One. It’ll give you a great introduction to the basics of the two-sided slip-stitch technique, which will make the more-complex future shawls seem all the easier.
And, if you’re in the Ottawa area, I’ll be teaching Two in a class at Yarn Forward & Sew On on Bank Street, starting in September. Keep an eye on the store’s booking website for upcoming class details and to sign up for the Slip-Stitch Shawl Class: www.bookeo.com/yarnforward
I’ve been busy this winter but unable to tell you about it! Let me catch you up.
I’ve been making videos. My favourite so far is this one on how to pick up stitches for no-gap thumbs. I keep reading how it’s impossible, but it so isn’t. In the video, I show you exactly how and where to pick up your stitches to close the gaps without any weird twisting. The best part is, this method just makes it look like columns of knit stitches with nothing out of place. I’m pretty pleased with it.
Aaaand, that cabled mitten in the video? It’s my new pattern, just new out today. I named it XOX OXO. You know how when you write a letter to Santa, his postal code is HOH OHO? (At least it is here in Canada.) Well, the cables and the season made me think of how every time I wear these sweet, squishy mittens, it’s almost like I’m sending myself a message to be kind to myself. I’m a sentimental soul, and I have stupid Seasonal Affective Disorder, so basically I fight against depression every winter. A big part of that battle is recognizing which thoughts are mine and which are symptoms. Hint: if it’s soul-crushingly mean, it’s from a lack of dopamine.
Next on the list of winter-killed-my-brain-so-now-I’m-catching-up is this pattern, Fluffa. These are lightning-fast, super warm felted mittens. They’re knit up with bulky 100% wool on giant needles then shrunk into oblivion in the washing machine until they’re dense and snow proof. These are the mittens you put on your kids for hours-long outdoor snow play. My kids have been wearing theirs all winter, and people, let me tell you: finally, I’ve made hand-knit mittens that actually do the trick! Even when the snow cakes on the outsides of them, their hands are still warm inside. I made some for myself and my husband, as well, and we love them for shoveling the driveway.
They’re available in sizes for the entire family, with choices of everyday cuffs or long cuffs for serious outside time. You can even make the larger sizes into oven mitts, since wool is fire and heat resistant. Neat, eh?
They go nicely into the dryer, too, for those days when your kids want to go outside again before the mittens have dried on the air vents.
Another thing I did, which I’m pretty proud of, is I knit a horse. Yes, I got to yarn bomb a horse statue! It’s been on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, in conjunction with their World War Women exhibit and a big knitted-goods donation drive they hosted.
It was a totally cool project. I had to take all the measurements and design and knit the whole thing myself. My life was insane last fall when I had to make it, and there were a couple delays, so I had three weeks — yes, you read that right: 3 weeks — in which to do the knitting. With the strategy of eat, sleep, knit, and with my husband home to take care of absolutely everything to do with the kids and the house, I did it. Almost. I had to ask Lisa, a knitter friend of mine, to help me out by knitting the two front legs during the last week. And my mom spent a day at my place making all those pompoms.
I’d love to write a more detailed post about how on earth one designs a fitted cover for a horse. Maybe later, now that my brain seems to have switched back on again, I will.
Lastly, I’ve discovered the joys of Instagram. It is my place, people. Pictures! Pretty pictures! And none of the drama of Facebook or Twitter. I’ve been posting there a lot, sharing pictures of my personal knitting projects, the many gezillions of things that I have on my needles. (At last count, I had about 20 projects on the go. Yes, I’m one of those knitters.) If you’re on Instagram, come find me! I’m @aknitica. (And feel free to tag me if you’re knitting up one of my patterns! And you can hashtag the pattern name, too, if you like.)
Okay, now really lastly (apparently I was just kidding in the previous paragraph), I’m having a sale! It’s time for me to give all my lovely subscribers a deal. So, how about a BOGO! That’s Buy One, Get One FREE. For a limited time, and on Ravelry only, all of my self-published patterns will be part of this event, including those two new ones above, XOX OXO and Fluffa. Sadly, anything currently published by Knit Picks will not be included. But everything else is fair game. Simply add two (or multiples of two) patterns to your Ravelry cart, and the BOGO discount will automatically be applied to all eligible patterns. Yay! Go here to start shopping.
And rats, now I’m reminded that I had one last thing to show you. Too much yet? I just had another pattern published by Knit Picks! It’s Faela, my first sweater design, and it’s part of The Colorblock Collection. There are some gorgeous sweaters in there. This one is an oversized tunic with slight A-line shaping. It’s knit up in soft Knit Picks Swish Worsted.
And that is really all for today. See you around the internets!
"Thanks for the amazing workshop Amanda! You've given me new confidence with my knitting and I'll spend less time working backwards with my projects. Why didn't I take this class a long time ago?!" ~ Andrea
"Thank you for a terrific learning session on Sunday.
I came home, went directly to your website and learned another tip right away. It was great.
Again, thank you for a wonderful afternoon and learning experience.." ~ Heather