Flip-top gloves for Jeremy

January 30th, 2016

Flip-Top Gloves

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.

Flip-Top Gloves

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.

Flip-Top Gloves

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1000 Stitches for Syria

December 15th, 2015

Karusellen

25,000 Syrian refugees are arriving in Canada this winter. The first group arrived in Toronto on December 11 and our new Prime Minister did a fantastic job in greeting them. I believe wholeheartedly in a warm welcome and thankfully, groups of knitters have sprung up across the country to help make this happen. There’s 1000 Stitches for Syria, based in Toronto, and 25 000 tuques in Quebec with a great slogan: “Because in Quebec, the only true enemy is the cold.”

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.

For more information
1000 Stitches for Syria: 1000stitches.org
25 000 tuques: jdussot.wix.com/25000tuques
CBC: Quebecer launches online knitting campaign to help Syrian refugees

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A knitter’s guide to Iceland

September 12th, 2015
Icelandic sheep near Reykjahlíð in Mývatn.

Icelandic sheep near Reykjahlíð in Mývatn. Photo by Christopher Lewis

Sheep on a slope in south Iceland.

Sheep on a slope in south Iceland.

Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon in southeast Iceland on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.

Jökulsárlón, a glacier lagoon in southeast Iceland on the edge of Vatnajökull National Park.

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.

Just your typical convenience store yarn selection... in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in south Iceland.

Just your typical convenience store yarn selection… in the village of Kirkjubæjarklaustur in south Iceland.

Icelandic sheep at the Viking Cafe near Höfn.

Icelandic sheep at the Viking Cafe near Höfn.

Lopi Loop

Lopi Loop. Photo by Christopher Lewis

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).

Guðbjörg knitting at the Kolaportið flea market in Reykjavík.

Guðbjörg knitting at the Kolaportið flea market in Reykjavík.

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.

I love the lopapeysa Guðbjörg knit for me. Photo by Christopher Lewis

I love the lopapeysa Guðbjörg knit for me. Photo by Christopher Lewis

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.

Lopapeysur at Álafoss in Mosfellsbær.

Lopapeysur at Álafoss in Mosfellsbær.

The Álafoss wool store in Mosfellsbær.

The Álafoss wool store in Mosfellsbær.

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.

A handsome black sheep in the Westfjords. Photo by Christopher Lewis

A handsome black sheep in the Westfjords. Photo by Christopher Lewis

Me wandering around the Hverir geothermal field at Námaskarð, Mývatn. Photo by Christopher Lewis

Me wandering around the Hverir geothermal field at Námaskarð, Mývatn. Photo by Christopher Lewis

Beautiful Icelandic horses in Fljótsdalur, east Iceland.

Beautiful Icelandic horses in Fljótsdalur, east Iceland. Photo by Christopher Lewis

Svartifoss in Skaftafell, Vatnajökull National Park.

Svartifoss in Skaftafell, Vatnajökull National Park.

Niece and nephew knits

August 16th, 2015

wee Chickadee by Ysolda Teague
wee Chickadee by Ysolda Teague
Lancelot by Solenn Couix-Loarer
Lancelot by Solenn Couix-Loarer
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.

Wee Chickadee is one of Ysolda Teague’s patterns, pictured top, and was an absolute joy to knit. The piece is knit flat; no steeking required for the stranded yoke. I used Jamieson & Smith 2 ply jumper weight, and I love the look of the oatmeal heather against the contrasting colours. And the buttons! My sister gave them to me years ago, and I think they’re the perfect fit. They’re walnut, and were made by the Prairie Knitters at the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market in Edmonton, Alberta.

For more knitting updates, follow me on Instagram.

Ireland, land of sheep and wonderful woollens

July 10th, 2015
Sheep stand off in Co. Kerry

A sheep stand off in the Caha Mountains, along the N71 to Kenmare, Co. Kerry.

Sheep on the road

Sheep on the road at Moll’s Gap.

Moll's Gap

Moll’s Gap in Co. Kerry.

Avoca

Woolly goodness at Avoca, 11-13 Suffolk Street, Dublin 2.

Knits at the Irish Design Shop

Knits at the Irish Design Shop – 41 Drury St, Dublin 2.

Kevin & Howlin

Kevin & Howlin, specialists in hand-woven Donegal tweed. The shop is at 31 Nassau Street, Dublin 2.

Barleycove

Barleycove, a beach near Crookhaven and Goleen in Co. Cork.

Burren Fine Wine and Food

Burren Fine Wine and Food, on Corkscrewhill Road in Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare.

Streedagh Strand

Seaweed specialist Prannie Rhatigan running across Streedagh Strand in Co. Sligo. That’s Benbulben – Ireland’s “Table Mountain” – in the distance.

Streedagh Strand

Sea pinks growing out of the rocks on Streedagh Strand, Co. Sligo.

Black mussels on Streedagh strand

Black mussels on Streedagh strand.

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

April 27th, 2015

Silver BeelineSilver Beeline

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!

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Funchal Twisted Wrap

December 22nd, 2014

Funchal Fair Isle Twisted Wrap Funchal Fair Isle Twisted Wrap Funchal Fair Isle Twisted Wrap

This was a lot of fun to knit. I love stranded colourwork and I love Jamieson & Smith’s 100 per cent Shetland wool. Couldn’t go wrong with this pattern either: Kate Davies’ Funchal Moebius!

I did adapt it by adding a full twist rather than forming a Moebius strip as written. I also shortened it so it fits comfortably around the neck rather than shoulders.

The piece is knit in the round, as a tube, and then grafted together after the twist. Fun, fun, fun! I came across The Purl Bee’s video tutorial for Kitchener stitch, which I think is helpful if you haven’t grafted before, or need a refresher before diving in.

I hope you enjoy wearing it, Jane! And a very happy holiday to all!

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Wee Ambrosia

November 23rd, 2014

Wee Ambrosia Wee Ambrosia Hood Wee Ambrosia Body

A tiny Christmas cardigan for my two-year-old niece – the pattern is Gudrun Johnston’s Wee Ambrosia. I didn’t make any modifications, and even used the recommended yarn. I’m a big fan of Quince & Co., and this is their aran-weight Osprey in Apricot. Let’s hear it for 100 per cent wool and Wovember!

I initially ordered some custom ceramic toggles but they ended up being too heavy; they really pulled on the fabric. I came across these cute fabric-covered penguin buttons on Etsy and think they’re perfect. My niece is partial to penguins.

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Osprey Sylkie

November 9th, 2014

Sylkie Osprey

I love the texture of this cowl; Gudrun Johnston’s Sylkie pattern. I’ve made it before and will definitely be making it again. And, in honour of Wovember, this version is 100 per cent wool.

Two skeins of Quince & Co.’s Osprey yarn leave you with a cowl that will wrap twice, snugly. I expect after wearing it will stretch out slightly and be just right.

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Ecclefechan Mitts

May 18th, 2014

Ecclefechan Mitts

The fabric of these mitts almost looks woven. I used a worsted spun, 100 per cent Shetland wool yarn from Jamieson & Smith’s Shetland Heritage line. The result is a soft fabric with a smooth finish.

Ecclefechan Mitts Ecclefechan Mitts

Kate Davies designed the pattern; an interpretation of traditional two-colour gloves made in Dentdale and the Scottish Borders. Ecclefechan, a Borders’ village, is on the map as the birthplace of satirist Thomas Carlyle, as well as for its butter tarts. If you need incentive, the pattern comes with a recipe!

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