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.
I am totally a magpie, attracted to shiny objects. That might explain my new obsession with beaded knitting. That, and the rhythmic, hypnotic, fun-yet-relaxing act of sliding beads into place amidst comforting garter stitch. (And if you’ve ever read any of my posts here, you’ll have noticed that I like fun-yet-relaxing knitting. Don’t bore me, and don’t make me tear my hair out, either. Give me something interesting, but not too interesting. What, beads? That’ll do.)
I get excited watching the beads grow into patterns and pictures. And, because I’m me, I get really excited dreaming up all the combinations of motifs and bling to put on my wrists and give to my friends.
And that, my friends, is why I present you today with not just one beaded wrister pattern — oh no! — but five. And there are more in the works. I’ve gotten completely carried away.
But why, you ask? Sure, they’re pretty, but what exactly does a tiny band around the wrist do?
My goodness! They do all sorts of things! They’re not just a pretty face, you know. I’ve heard them called pulse warmers, which seemed pretty suspicious to me at first. I mean really, how much could a tiny woolly bracelet heat up a person? The answer is “surprisingly a lot.” They warm up the blood going to your fingers and make your hands feel all comfy while they’re practically naked. It’s a tiny miracle!
I wear mine almost all the time when it’s cold. I’ve even worn mine this summer in my air conditioning. (It gets chilly in here. First world problems.)
I keep a pair in my purse for “emergencies.”
I’ve decided they’re the perfect gift for every woman I know. Seriously. I can make a pair in a day or two, so why not? I will cover the world in fancy under-the-sleeve glitter, doling out warmth and goodwill made of prancing unicorns and glassy feathers.
The most fantastic thing, though, is that they keep me warm but don’t get in the way of my knitting. They fit under sleeves, both long and short, they will fit under my mittens, and they’re cute. They’re perfect for wearing while typing, biking, arm wrestling, working with clients, sipping lattes in over-air-conditioned book stores. And they’re a lovely, portable knitting project, too. Once you’ve pre-strung the beads, they’re ready to ride along in your purse to be pulled out in the event of knitting emergencies (read: waiting in boring lines or at the doctor’s office).
The only thing I should warn you about is that if you have a tiny princess in your house who takes after you and your magpie-ness, she will want a pair or two or five. With bunnies. Not like that, mommy, like this. You will be surprised by her good taste and eye for balanced composition.
Now, I want to reassure any beading neophytes that this whole fancy beading thing is actually pretty easy. If you have dental floss threaders on hand, then you’re all set. They make the perfect “needles” to thread your beads onto your yarn. The patterns will tell you how many beads to load, and if you count them by 5’s, it’s fairly painless. Especially if you watch your latest series on Netflix while doing it.
You’ll want to get glass seed beads in size 8/0 (AKA #8). (The 8 means that you can fit 8 seed beads in one inch.) I’ve read that the Czech or Japanese beads are the most consistent in quality and size, so look for those. I get mine either from a local store (McBead Creations on Craig Henry in Ottawa) or online at Fire Mountain Beads.
As for the yarn, these things are so tiny that they make the perfect stashbusting projects. They require somewhat less than 30 grams of sock yarn per pair. You could probably even squeeze two pairs out of a small 50-gram skein of something wonderful, like Koigu Painters Palette. And don’t be afraid to stripe them up a bit. I’ve seen some beautiful ones done with stripes.
And there you have it. Welcome to my obsession. 🙂
If you’d like to pick up a copy of the PDF patterns, click one of these handy links. My kids’ orthodontist thanks you, and so do I.
Choosing colors for a project seems to be one of those things that makes us all second guess ourselves. So let’s go over some basic rules and guidelines that might help you to choose colors confidently.
1. Choose colors that you love. What makes your heart sing every time you look at it? Base your project on that.
2. Choose colors that you consistently wear. Have you ever said to yourself, “I wear blue all the time. I should branch out.” WHY? Why do you do that to yourself? Chances are that spending a month making yourself a pink sweater just because you “should” will end with a sweater that sits in your drawer instead of on your back. You know, deep down, that you won’t wear it. Don’t do it. Make yourself classics. If you’re going to branch out, spend $10 and 5 minutes at the mall to test a new color first.
3. Colors can really be combined in soooo many ways and still be pretty. I bet you’ll only think something is ugly if you incorporate a color that you just don’t like. If you don’t enjoy a color, leave it out.
4. If rainbows make you happy, make rainbows. A rainbow effect doesn’t have to mean you’re using all the bright colors in the exact rainbow order. Try using muted versions of the rainbow colors. Or switch the position of just two of them. Or add a bit of grey, brown, cream, or whatever your favorite neutral is to tone things down. If you like bright colors, do a bright rainbow. If you like soft, muted colors, use light colors with a hint of grey in them. If you like earthy tones, use brownish, toned-down versions of the rainbow colors.
5. Aim for balance. Balance just means that there’s a bit of proportion in your design. There are repeating motifs, whether in shape, texture, color, shade, darkness, lightness, brightness… Sometimes creating an imbalance can add visual interest. If you want to draw the eye to an area and really make it pop, use a color that isn’t everywhere else already. Think of sock cuffs in bright red, or just one stripe in a contrasting color. Balance and imbalance are both design tools to put in your tool box.
6. Use contrast. If you want to emphasize a motif, make it dark and your background light, or vice versa. They could both be colored, like yellow on blue. But if they’re both a medium shade, they’ll blend together. That could be a cool effect, but if you want your design to pop, try using a navy blue with a light yellow. If you use a dark yellow with a light blue, however, the yellow might not be dark enough to contrast well.
7. Try using three colors that touch each other in the rainbow or on the color wheel. Did you know that the color wheel is just a rainbow bent into a circle? Yup, it’s that simple. Three colors in a row will give you a nice, gentle effect. Think yellow-green, green, green-blue. Or yellow, green, blue. Or orange, orange-red, red. Have some fun with it.
8. Look around you for inspiration. Flowers, gardens, buildings, paintings, sunsets and sunrises, clouds, farmers’ fields at harvest time, the first rays of sunlight touching the frost on a window pane…. What are their main colors? Now look more closely. What tiny flashes of other colors are inside? If you find beauty in something, try using those same colors in those proportions in your next colorwork project.
9. Beauty is subjective. Some things, like the golden spiral, are universally beautiful. Did you know that the proportions we consider to be beautiful are mathematical? Cool, eh? But color isn’t necessarily universally beautiful. I have a friend who exclaims in delight over any deep purple or harvest color. One of my sons thinks black and brown are the most lovely color combination. I, personally, will buy any electric-blue or turquoise yarn you put in front of me. If I tried to make myself buy the harvest colors, I’d undoubtedly be dissatisfied with them and my friend would think I was crazy. Such is life. So, buy the colors you like. They’ll match, I promise. Just remember to throw in some contrast in their shades (lightness and darkness) so the design doesn’t disappear.
10. The color wheel contains pairs of opposite colors. These pairs are called complementary colors. When you’re looking at a color wheel, they’re the ones directly across from each other. The main 3 pairs of complementary colors are blue & orange, red & green, and yellow & purple. When used together in a design, they create high contrast but also balance. Hm. I think I may have just learned something profound about life right there.
In other fun color news, I’ve just finished this new hat pattern. I’ve named it Obla, and it’s a stranded colorwork hat made with just two colors. Interestingly enough, I chose two complementary colors for its prototype. And I used two shades, as well. The pinky-purple is medium-dark, and the seafoam green is nice and light. Simple color theory at work. 🙂 Oh, and of course, I actually quite like both those colors. Otherwise, what would be the point?
It’s knit up using a total of 60 grams of fingering-weight yarn and size 3 US (3.25 mm) needles. About 30 grams for each of the colors should be enough. You can grab a copy of the pattern here on the aknitica website or over on Ravelry.
I really enjoyed knitting it up. The chart has a nice, simple repeat with no long floats anywhere. I wish I had more time to make another, maybe with a modified rainbow background and white for the contrast. Or maybe in dark charcoal grey with mustard yellow. What do you think?
I hope my color tips were a little helpful today. I figured that other places go into the technical details of color theory more, so maybe I should give you some other ideas. Can you think of any other tips for us? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post on Facebook or Pinterest if you found it helpful.
Just out of curiosity, what is your favorite color combination?
This post is part of my 31 Days to Your Nicest Knitting series. Every day, I’ll post a new tip or trick to make your knitting nicer. You can follow along easily by subscribing. If you have any knitting problems you’d like me to fix, let me know and I’ll try to answer your question as part of the series. You can find all the posts in the series here.
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Comments from my students
"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