Monthly Archives: July 2015


Learning a new technique is so gratifying!

Today I decided to cast on using the yarn I purchased at Belfast Mini-Mills. I love the yarn, love the colours, but it was looking pretty insane all on its own. I am all for crazy fun colours, but this was just too much, even for me. I dug through my stash and found some leftover dark grey wool from the striped hat I made for Ryan this past spring and figured it would work to tone down the rainbow. But how? Stripes? Checker board? Some other sort of colourwork?

 

What about entrelac?

 

I hadn’t even attempted it before, it looks so beautiful and complicated but also super intimidating. Whatever..no time like the present. And of course I am insane and decided to plough ahead without a pattern. Nothing says “likely to succeed at new technique” like winging it… 

Entrelac As it turns out it is actually TOTALLY turning out! And entrelac is way easier than I expected! I am absolutely loving how this is knitting up, the grey has done exactly what I hoped it would. The rainbow now pops without being crazy in your face insane looking. I love how each block of the rainbow looks sort of like it’s own perfect little miniature rainbow. Man, I just love this.

 

Hurray for learning new techniques!


I played chicken, and the chicken won.

The first mitten before I removed and frogged the flap and tore back and redid the grey edging bindoff.

I am not a fan of playing yarn chicken. I know, in the grand scheme of things yarn chicken isn’t exactly the most badass or risky of behaviours, but it is outstandingly annoying when you end up NOT having enough yarn to finish a project as you planned. And yet, despite my hatred of yarn chicken, I played it.

My Tri-Blend set is so fabulous I can hardly breathe, and looking at the yarn I had left over after I finished the cowl I thought for SURE I’d have enough yarn to make some matching mittens. So I went ahead and just started knitting. I finished one and declared it pretty damned cool. I had some things I wasn’t 100% on, like the thickness of the icord bindoff around the top (which I frogged and redid as just a normal bindoff, looks way better), but overall I totally liked it.

I went to start the second one I had a moment of “Oh crud…” because the amount of blue yarn I had left seemed extremely insufficient for the second mitten. “Maybe it is more than it looks!” I said to myself, steeped in denial and misplaced optimism, and I started the second mitt.

Yeah, no. It was exactly as much as it looked. I was down to INCHES to spare when I was finishing the thumb, so no way in hell did I have enough for the finger flappy bit. My husband said to just knit the flap using the yellow, saying it wouldn’t matter if they weren’t exactly the same. I scoffed at this suggestion, declaring that I put too damned much work into this set, I was NOT going to settle for an unmatching imperfect pair of mittens after all this.

This is all I have left from the three skeins I bought in PEI. Notice how the blue is just a ramen-noodle resembling mess. I haven’t properly balled it up after frogging the first flap.

I had no choice.

I carefully detached the flap from the first mitten and frogged it. I now have two matching fingerless mitts with no finger flap, and yeah, I could just leave them this way but that would defeat the purpose since I’m aiming to make a super warm set to battle the cold cold Canadian winter weather. Fingerless mitts = frostbite. So my plan now is to redo the flaps, each flap being its own little tri-blend gradient. My plan is to go Grey – Yellow – Blue so that when I attach the flap to the mitt it will be blue on blue and therefore look tidier. I’m also going to actually WEIGH the blue yarn to make sure I have an equal/even amount of yarn for both flap.

Even then, I’m pretty sure I am going to come very close to using up every little bit of this yarn. I have hardly any blue left, even less grey, and a bit more yellow, but still! I feel sort of proud for so completely using up the three original skeins of yarn I got from MacAusland’s Woolen Mill. I continue to be very happy with this yarn and I continue to totally regret not buying more of it when I had the chance. The only thing I can say against it is that when I soaked and blocked my hat and cowl there was a surprising amount of colour in the water from the blue and yellow yarns, but honestly that isn’t a huge deal for me.


Matching Cowl Success! The ultimate Canadian Winter set has been made!

20150716_185240Matching cowl complete! Honest to God, how awesome is this set? I know I know, blah blah modesty blah, but seriously… this set has turned out way way better than anything else I have made, and way better than I was hoping. It looks so cool! And unique! And cool!!! My friend in Texas said that when she first saw the picture of me in the set that it looked like a cool X-Men character. My husband described the look as a sort of brightly coloured ninja. Both sound awesome to me!

Okay, so we’ve established the set LOOKS great. As for functionality, lets delve into this a bit.

It gets extremely cold here in New Brunswick, and the windchill is fairly epic in its terribleness. -40°C level terribleness. I’ve lived here all my life and am as “used to it” as anyone can be, but it still sucks. I think a lot of people who suffer through weather like this every year are always in search of the Perfect Winter Combo™. I know I have been. So when I bought the yarn from MacAusland’s I saw this as my chance.

The whole basis for this project was to create a cute set that would be great for general winter days, would work well as separates, but when paired be able to shield against the worst of the windchills.

Cute? CHECK!

Works well as separates? CHECK!

Shields against extreme winter windchills? As yet untested but I’m thinking it is going to be perfect. Why? I’m glad you asked! 20150716_185202

  1. I knit these at a fairly tight gauge, which makes them snuggly warm but also more resistant to wind. I also made a point of felting them just the tiniest bit to help with that, and to just make the colour blending blur a bit.
  2. The double thickness band on the front of the bonnet creates a fairly robust and effective windbreak. Normal hats that sit snug to the head do nothing to protect your eyes/face from the stinging winds, but this style hat really does a great job of creating a protective buffer from the wind. This isn’t just a guess, I know this first hand – my Birthday Sprinkles hat last winter was great for this!
  3. The extra-thick i-cord edging along the top of the cowl creates a bit of a form-fitting cushion along my face. I’m a fan of scarves/neckers/cowls, but have found that they all either 1) squash too tightly against my face/mouth to be comfortable or 2) are too loose and therefore gappy and drafty. My cowl allows for a snug (but comfortable fit) along the top while still having a looser more comfortable fit for along the body of the cowl.
  4. The cowl stays up. I am not a fan of super floppy cowls that don’t stay up.  Function over fashion, people!
  5. The bonnet overlaps the cowl in the back , creating a wind-proof result. I haaaaaaaaaate when there is a gap between my hat and my scarf/cowl that the wind and cold air can get at, but this combo works perfectly. Plus, it isn’t excessively bulky or lumpy looking.

 

The only thing I would have done differently with the cowl is to make it a bit longer and to have done a bit of shaping to make it wider at the bottom so that it could spread out and and sort of splay out on to my shoulders a little bit so that when I put my coat on it has a solid amount of overlap, again ensuring a wind-proof seam. As it is I think it will be fine. I’m half considering picking up the bottom stitches and extending things a bit, but I honestly don’t think it is necessary. And, well, I don’t think I have enough yarn. I think I have juuuuuuust enough to finish my matching mittens, but I think that will be it. I’m making the mittens the convertible type so that I can expose my fingers if need be. I’m doing this because I want to be able to put on my mittens, then put on my coat (so that the mittens are properly tucked in and sealed by the jacket cuff) and then zip up my coat without difficulty. Have you ever tried zipping up a coat with mittens on? Yeah, it is tricky business.20150716_205432 I’ve completed one mitten and am pretty happy with it. I did a thick i-cord edging along the top but I’m not happy with it – too bulky, especially when the mitten top is pulled over my fingers – so I’m probably going to tear that out and just do a standard bind-off. I also need to come up with a way to secure my mitten tops to the back of the mitten…. maybe. I strongly suspect that the mitten top will be over my fingers more often than not and that the pulled back option will be on an as-needed basis and then be returned to the top on position as soon as I am done using my fingers. If this is the case then going through the effort of making some way to secure the top to the back of the mitten would be unnecessary. If I DO end up securing the flap somehow it will NOT be velcro. Sure, its easy and effective, but it sticks to the whole mitten, not just the loopy bit that it is supposed to stick to, and it ruins the knit.

 

Once I finish the mittens I am definitely going to be writing up the patterns for the whole set.


Prince Edward Island Fibre Trail – Part Three

We had one final stop on the Fibre Trail that I really wanted to make, and it was to Belfast Mini Mills. Again, this was on the Fibre Trail pamphlet, but was also touted as a “must stop” for anyone interested in yarn visiting Prince Edward Island. This time the whole group of us went (my husband and kid included) and I felt a bit of pressure, like if it wasn’t awesome/fun it would be my fault since I’m the one who wanted to go there. Thankfully, it was pretty awesome.

Belfast Mini Mills

I actually didn’t take a single picture while I was there, probably because I was too interested in everything they were showing us, so instead you get a picture of the gorgeous yarn I purchased there.

Belfast Mini Mills is exactly what the name says and yet still not what I expected.

It is, as the name indicates, a place where you can purchase all the machines you would need to start up your own mini mill! This I was not expecting, which in retrospect is pretty stupid of me. It is sort of like going to a place called “Fish and Chips” and then being surprised when they serve fish and chips. Clearly I lack a certain amount of logic. Regardless, it was a very welcome surprise. They gave us a tour through their whole operation, and from what I can gather their machines are a pretty big deal. By “mini” it means not huge industrial size, but they are far from small. Not at all your hobby level machines. It was really fascinating having them walk us through the entire process, how they go from raw fleece to finished yarn, the entire process facilitated by the various machines they have constructed and designed. They so clearly took a lot of pride in their machines and the quality of the product they produced.

After the walkthrough of the whole process we went into their shop that was full of yarns, almost all of which had been produced right there in their mill. Oh man, the yarn… THE YARN! It was beautiful!!! The first thing I saw when I walked in the door were these gorgeous knitted hats that were rainbow and white, the white yarn having a fluffy halo. I thought it was angora but found out it was samoyed (dog)!! Crazy crazy crazy soft and beautiful looking. After that it was just a big room of beautiful yarns, including a whole set of qiviut yarns. So pricey but so soft and amazing looking. Someday… someday…

20150704_160855There was an additional room behind the “yarn room” where there was just a ton of fibre and roving, as well as a woman working away at a loom. My mother had a chat with her, having done some weaving herself back in the day, but I was totally taken by all the fiber. By this point I had purchased my drop spindle so all I was seeing was future spinning materials! In the end I settled on a bag of merino of a bunch of different colours so that I’d have plenty to practice with and that would allow me to combine and maybe make gradients should I ever wish to attempt that.

As for the yarn, I suffered greatly trying to decide on what to buy. The obvious and most tempting option was “Everything”, but sadly my budget didn’t allow for that. In the end I decided on a skein of the gorgeous rainbow yarn they used in the pretty hats they had up front. I didn’t buy the samoyed to go with it and regret it, but I’m sure I’ll still make good use of my rainbow yarn even without it.


 

So that was my experience visiting some spots on the Fibre Trail in Prince Edward Island. Was it worth it? Hell yes. I learned a ton, I saw some really interesting things, I saw the entire lifecycle of yarn (from the animal all the way to the mill and store), talked to some pretty interesting people, and frankly have taken away a deeper appreciation for yarn and everything that goes into QUALITY yarn now. I am still really surprised at how great PEI is for knit tourism (if that is a thing) and I would absolutely recommend it for any knitter (or crocheter or weaver etc) as a great vacation spot if they want both a great beach time AND some yarny activities as well.

(View Part One – MacAuslands Woolen Mill)
(View Part Two – Green Gables Alpacas/Julie’s Yarn Shop)