What I knit in Iceland

Thursday, September 15th, 2011 7 comments

I’ve been back from Iceland for a few days, but the simple cold I had when leaving Reykjavik had its volume turned up to 11 thanks to air travel. I’m hacking away still but hey! I make sense now.

As you can well imagine, a knitter cannot visit Iceland without stopping by Istex and, luckily for us, Ragga wasted no time taking us there. I knew I wanted some unspun, if only because I had never worked with it before. Seeing garments made with two strands held together at the Alafoss store only reinforced my aim and I selected enough to knit Védís Jónsdóttir’s Ranga from the new book ‘Knitting with Icelandic Wool’.

Of course, I couldn’t leave well enough alone. Ranga’s sleeves are unshaped, and my arms are simply not long enough to allow me to get away with that. I also decided that I’d nip the body in slightly around the ribcage while I was at it. Oh, and yeah – I’d also be doing away with the zipper. But doing the pattern as written apart from that.

Except that after swatching, I found that the fabric I liked was at a different gauge than called for in the pattern. This was entirely my fault, by the way – the pattern called for Lett Lopi, not Plötulopi.

We were to be in and out of the bus for a few days, taking in sights and visiting yarn  and grocery stores (don’t laugh: the latter sell yarn). And we we’d be socializing amongst ourselves, so math was out for the time being. In order to move forward as simply as possible, I selected the size which would fit me best after accounting for the tension change and cast on… for the yoke!

Which worked really well. I had a provisional cast on to pick stitches up from for the body and sleeves, was able to try it on on the fly and there was no reverse engineering to be done. All I had to do was locate the number of stitches after the body and sleeves were brought together and go on from there. Danielle and Anne decided to give it a try as well – you can see some of Danielle’s progress here but she was much farther along when we said goodbye last week.





Iceland Day Two

Monday, August 29th, 2011 2 comments

Technical difficulties yesterday resulted in no photos… I’ll try to make up for it today!
















Friday, August 26th, 2011 9 comments

When I fist saw Elizabeth Zimmermann’s green sweater in  Twist Collective, I knew I had to make it. Took a bit of celestial alignment – I picked up the pattern in Wisconsin and knew I needed something warm for Iceland* – but here it is.

It really is hard for me to knit anything as written. But I didn’t make many changes on this one; decided on ribbing as a hem treatment instead of a facing and narrowed the sleeves slightly by removing an inch for the armhole depth. I alternated decreases every 2nd round then every 3rd round for a longer sleeve, since the length of the sleeve is dictated by the number of stitches picked around the armhole and I had picked up fewer.

The pic above is a little fuzzy, but shows something I always, always do when working armhole steeks – work a three needle bind off before finishing my steeks with crochet and cutting them open. The resulting steek flows over the shoulder.

For giggles, I tried something new this time and picked up stitches for the sleeves through a column of stitches. It worked – the little facing created by the steek selvedge is forced to the wrong side and lies flat without any steaming or blocking whatsoever. I love it when things work as anticipated.

I also experimented with picking up both the right side and wrong side of the faced neckband using two circulars – most of my finishing is done at night and visibility with such a dark colour can be an issue. Instead of sewing down the live stitches, doing it this way allowed me to close the neckband using kitchener stitch.

Only buttons and loops are left to sew on! Which is excellent because I am leaving for Iceland tomorrow morning! I will be posting often, because I promised my family I would – my favourite cousin might even make an appearance in the comments!

*yes, I have other sweaters. I just needed a NEW one!

Back Home

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011 4 comments

I’ve been away. Can you guess where I’ve been?

One more clue…

And a last one – come on, this one gives it away!

SpinExpo 2011

Sunday, July 24th, 2011 1 comment

Marcel and I recently spent a few days in NYC – we didn’t stay long but had just enough time to visit a museum, take in a play on Broadway (my first!) and attend SpinExpo. Oddly enough, Mars opted not to follow the knitters to the latter venue…

SpinExpo is a trade show for industry professionals, much like Pitti Filati. Exhibitors range from yarn mills, companies selling ideas to RTW (these are mostly oversized swatches which include design details such as necklines and closures) to contractors specializing in knitwear. As far as we were concerned, the trend exhibition area was the area of most interest.

Most swatches are knit by machine. Some employ techniques familiar to hand knitters, but less commonly seen such as using both the right side and wrong side of stranded colorwork.


This textural effect was created using short rows along the center section. A crochet row is later to control the gathers created.

Short rows and cables, followed by stitches picked up from either side.

More short rowed cables, this time in fancy sparkly yarn.

Tuck stitches – these are formed in a manner similar to brioche knitting whereas stitches are slipped while executing yarnovers; the slipped stitches and corresponding yarnovers are knit together in a subsequent row. Note how the elongated stitches also appear thicker than the regular stitches, due to multiple strands being knit together.

And some applied I-cords. All in all, a worthy visit.

We have a winner!

Monday, July 4th, 2011 1 comment

Congratulations to Natalie S.! She will be receiving a Sam and Samira kit in the mail within a few days.


Ohio Star

Monday, June 20th, 2011 3 comments

I’ll be travelling quite a bit this year – in addition to the trip to Iceland I mentioned earlier, I’ll also be attending KnitEast as one of the teachers. It’s being held at the historic Fairmont Algonquin in St.Andrews By-the-Sea in New Brunswick. I was only there for an afternoon back in 1994, and it was truly beautiful – I’m really looking forward to going back.

One of the classes I’ll be teaching is entitled ‘Knitted Quilts’ and I’ve been preparing by knitting swatches which will best illustrate the techniques we’ll be covering. The goal of the class isn’t to follow one of my patterns in this style, but rather for the students to learn the knowledge to translate pieced quilts into knitting patterns. Nine patch squares such as the swatch shown above are some of the simplest but more involved patterns are possible by using vertical joins such as can be seen in the beginning of an ‘Ohio Star’:

Speaking of Ohio, Robin and I returned last week from our annual road trip to Columbus, where the industry’s summer trade show is held once a year. We drove to Toronto to meet up with the lovely Julia Grunau of Patternfish fame, and the three of drove down together. As you can imagine, this resulted in a lot of driving for Robin and I  - about 30 hours worth over a period of one week for the two of, and some 18 hours for Julia. But we wouldn’t miss it for anything – it’s the one time of year we can count on meeting face to face with all those we usually only interact with through email.

Once I returned, I had planned on choosing a raffle winner immediately but that proved futile since I wouldn’t be able to ship it as long as Canada Post is on strike – or rather, since Canada Post locked out its striking union workers (the rotating strike which was in effect before the lock-out slowed things up, but this effectively brings everything to an halt). It shouldn’t last too long, thankfully – the last time it happened, the government legislated the workers back to work and we expect the same thing will happen before soon. Luckily, the yarn and magazines are also in stock in our Maine and can ship out to any destination in the world (except Canada, of course). As soon as packages can mail out again, I’ll pick a winner so anyone who hasn’t signed up for the newsletter yet still has a few days.

After months in the making, www.stdenisyarns.com quietly went live last Friday. Customers everywhere can now purchase securely copies of the last 2 magazines as well as our yarn and more.

To celebrate, we’re holding a raffle for our newsletter subscribers – as many of you have been waiting eagerly for us to list the pattern for Sam and Samira from our now sold out premier issue, we’re holding a contest for a kit containing all the yarn needed to make both dolls as well as the pdf pattern. To enter, create an account on stdenisyarns.com and subscribe to the newsletter – purchases are not necessary.

Good luck!


Thursday, April 7th, 2011 6 comments

While we put the finishing touches on this little web site of ours, I thought I’d pop in and share some of my exciting news – I’m going to Iceland!

You can imagine how thrilled I was when Ragga approached me about this. Not only that, but I soon received a care package directly from Iceland care of Ragga containing yarn samples, her latest dvd and what has to be the most charming note I have received in a long time:

She also included a small stack of gift cards to give away to potential tour guests; each of these have a value of 15000 kronas (around $130 usd). If you would like one, please let me know by emailing me at info [AT] stdenisyarns [DOT] com and perhaps we’ll see each other in Iceland!

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011 7 comments

Or rather, photograph/upload/edit/format/save/choose/insert/save in the case of yarn pics, and proof read endlessly in the case of the new magazine.

Yes, you heard correctly – the new magazine is done! It was printed last week and copies are making their way to their warehouses as I write this. The new website is also nearing completion, hence the interminable process of uploading product photographs. But I’m very close to being done and I have a carrot dangling in front of me to urge me towards the finish line: a few yards of cotton lawn fabric so that I may sew a summer dress.

Anyone looking for the new magazine in Canada will most likely find it in the same stores that have carried it in the past. In the US, it might be a little bit more complicated – you see, we recently decided to strike out on our own and to distribute ourselves in the US, as we have done all along in Canada. So, we are starting from scratch – right now, I don’t know which US retailers have been carrying the yarns and magazines, but I will add their listing to my website as I learn who they are.

In any case, I think you’ll like the new mag – As before, you’ll find patterns from Pam Allen, Jared Flood, Laura Grutzeck, Robin Melanson and Carol Sulcoski. We’re also joined this issue by Franklin Habit, Kirsten Kapur, Cecily Glowik MacDonald and Barbara Prime (see the blogroll for links to their websites). Stay tuned for teasers!