One of my all-time favourite patterns, Gudrun Johnston’s Hansel—a traditional Shetland hap. They’re so pleasing to knit. The centre square comes first, knit in garter stitch. Then a feather and fan border, worked by picking up stitches along all four sides, and finally a lace edging.
I’ve knit them in solid colours, like this one, and in contrasting colours for the border section (two in Jamieson & Smith Shetland wool are pictured below). Fingering weight for baby blankets, and heavier weight dk for a larger throw. I made this one with Socks that Rock Heavyweight by Blue Moon Fiber Arts. The yarn is hand-painted 100 per cent Merino—a deep, dark shaded black from the Raven Clan series.
I’ll close with an inside-out WIP shot of this sweet little pullover. For those new to stranded knitting, I have always found it helpful to knit on the wrong side. That way, I don’t have issues with puckering and my tension is much more even. If you’re a tight knitter by nature, as I am, give it a go!
I had so much fun working on these custom flip-top gloves for Jeremy. I modelled the stranded colourwork after a traditional Newfoundland trigger mitt pattern called diamond check, with a salt and pepper palm and corrugated ribbing on the mitten flap.
The buttons were an excellent find, and a perfect match for the navy wool. Nicole Sibonney, owner of Americo Original on Queen Street West in Toronto, helped me pick them out. They were handmade in Italy out of tagua nut, the so-called vegetable ivory because of its resemblance to tusks. Americo is my favourite source for buttons – fine buttons really do make all the difference in the finished product.
I knit my bit and made my first contribution to 1000 Stitches for Syria this weekend. Erica-Knits’ Karusellen toque (from Pom Pom Quarterly, Issue 14) will be going to one of the new permanent residents of Canada. I wish them success and happiness in this country of ours.
I feel very lucky to have travelled to two fantastic fibre destinations this year – Ireland in the spring and most recently Iceland. I remember the first time I knit with Icelandic wool, a clay-coloured lopi that I picked up at Romni Wools when I moved to Toronto in 2002. I loved it immediately – it shed like crazy but I didn’t care. I free-styled a capelet/cowl with a few balls of it, and immediately went back for more in navy to make myself a toque.
When I first went to Iceland in 2006, I didn’t buy a single ball of yarn. I had recently started my first job in media, and didn’t exactly have money to burn. This time though, I did it right. I not only brought back a nice stash of lopi, but a custom lopapeysa (Icelandic sweater) as well. Chris and I spent a little over two weeks in Iceland, most of it driving around the Ring Road (or Route 1) and the Westfjords. It was an incredible experience, and covering more than 3,000 kilometres gave us a taste of places we’d like to go back to and explore further.
But back to the yarn… a lot of things are expensive in Iceland, but yarn is not one of them. $3.50 CAD is pretty typical for a ball of lopi. You can find Icelandic wool almost everywhere – convenience stores, grocery stores and knit shops. So it’s plentiful and affordable, a dangerous combination for a knitter. My first fibre stop was on our first day in Reykjavík, at the Handknitting Association of Iceland. It’s wall-to-wall in there, stuffed to the gills with machine-knit socks, hats and sweaters as well as a whole room devoted to handknit lopapeysur, Ístex wool, patterns, needles and notions.
The second fibre stop was Storkurinn, a 2nd-floor shop on Laugavegur, which is Reykjavík’s main shopping street. Guðrún Hannele Henttinen is the owner of this lovely shop, and we chatted with her a bit about her time spent in Montreal as a student. Guðrún has a very nice selection of yarn, Icelandic and otherwise. This is where I made my first purchase, four balls of Létt-Lopi, which I used to make my Lopi Loop (pictured above). I should mention that although our trip spanned the end of August into September, a wool loop was most definitely welcome (especially up north where it dipped down to around 2°C).
On our second day in Reykjavík, we stopped by the Kolaportið flea market down by the harbour. This is a great place to go if you’re looking for a lopapeysa. There are many, many options. I met a knitter there named Guðbjörg, and she agreed to make me one in shades of grey. Her son dropped it off when we got back to Reykjavík after our road trip and it’s perfect. This was my first time on the other side of that particular relationship and it was so special to meet the maker.
SPARK Design Space is a unique shop in Reykjavík, and while not specifically fibre-focused, it’s not to be missed. I kind of stalked it until the last day of our trip, when I had the good fortune of finding it open! It’s filled with art, objects, books and textiles. The owner Sigríður is a great person to chat with, and is so knowledgeable about the artists and designers she carries in the shop. I had seen Vík Prjónsdóttír designs elsewhere, but am happy that I ended up buying one of their Raven Wing scarves from Sigríður.
Just outside of Reykjavík, we made a pit stop at Álafoss in Mosfellsbær when we first hit the road. Chris found his lopapeysa there, which was knit by a woman named Hrönn. This is a nice touch with the Handknitting Association of Iceland lopapeysur; the makers sign their names on the labels. I picked up some plötulopi (unspun plates) and Védís Jónsdóttir’s wonderfully comprehensive book, Knitting with Icelandic Wool. We then made our way around the Golden Circle and drove counterclockwise around the island.
It was in Akureyri, a town in northern Iceland, that we visited one of my favourite shops. Flóra sells handknit goods (some made with alpaca/Icelandic wool blends), hand-dyed yarn, new and second-hand clothing, Icelandic music, food and housewares. The owner Kristín introduced me to a local knitter, who told me all about a wool centre/workshop in the south, Þingborg. I will definitely be paying them a visit on a return trip to Iceland. From what the knitter told me, the women select the fleeces by hand and oversee every stage of cleaning and production. Rather than the fleece being scoured, with lanolin reintroduced after cleaning, they wash it lightly so the original lanolin remains. They produce natural wool yarns without the use of synthetic dyes, which really appeals to me. The sheep were roaming the countryside freely when we visited, and will be rounded-up during the annual Réttir in September. The diversity and depth of colours was truly beautiful.
My nephew Stellan was born in April, so naturally I’ve been amassing a slew of new-to-me little-person knit patterns. The first sweater I knit him was a Livingston pullover (not pictured), which remains my favourite baby pattern (along with the Umbilical Cord Hat from Stitch ‘n Bitch). For the winter, I’ve made him a wee slipped stitch sweater to go along with a wee colourwork cardi for his big sister, Sibella.
The green pullover is Lancelot by Solenn Couix-Loarer and from the notes on the project pages on Ravelry, it appears to have stumped a fair number of knitters. I think the pattern is correct, but the wording could be clearer around the markers. For the placket set up and neck shaping, the marker referred to in row 1 is the start of row marker. Other than that, it was all good and I’m really happy with the result.
I spent an incredible seven nights in Ireland on a work trip in May. Although my focus was culinary (read my story on Irish farmhouse cheeses on the National Post), I did squeeze in a couple of woollen blankets for myself, and a failed trip to This Is Knit in Dublin (Note: don’t necessarily trust the opening hours listed on their website).
Hopefully a future trip to this wonderful land allows for visits to woollen mills – Avoca, Cushendale, Donegal, Foxford, and Kerry – and of course the Aran Islands. Fellow knitters will admire the work of Inis Meáin Knitting Company; building on a rich tradition of knitted fishermen’s garments born of necessity and practicality, now with a luxurious touch.
I covered 1,530 kilometres in Ireland; my tips for an Irish road trip, as well as a video and more photos are included in my story on Driving.
Beeline is a straight-forward, seamless knit from Heidi Kirrmaier. I’ve made it twice so far, so that says something about its knit- and wear-ability. The first was for me(!) in jade Merino wool, and the second for my sister in silver Galway Highland Heathers.
The eyelet details and shaping add interest while knitting the many inches of stockinette for the body. The pullover is worked top-down, with the neckband picked up to finish. Easy peasy!