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Last week I was in the back seat of a friend's car (knitting, of course), on the way to a yarn sale.

As we pulled up to a red light, we noticed that a car in front of us had an unusual license plate that read "KNIT ON".  I quickly dug around in my knitting bag for two of these little babies.


tape measures 


I knocked on the driver's side window.  After she recovered from shock and lowered it, I offered her choice in colour, and asked her to check out the magazine. She was delighted to be given something for free, the red light surprise notwithstanding, and said that no one had ever said anything about her license plate before.  What part of the world must she live in, I wondered, knitcentric as I am. 

Which is all to say that Irene and Julia (that's me) will most likely be at Rhinebeck with a load of Twist Collective tape measures.  If you're there, and you are wearing, or carrying with you proof of purchase in the form of a WIP or a copy of your pattern, we'll hand one over for your kit bag.  Or if we happen to see you in traffic with your knitter's license plate, that could happen too.  You just never know.

When last we spoke, I had promised to show you what a sewn steek looks like, so that maybe you wouldn't be intimidated out of using a non-Shetland yarn such as Classic Elite's Fresco for a steeked design like Little Birds.  Here's the swatch, unharassed.


The first thing I like to do is choose a stitch width and length on your sewing machine that matches the size of your knit stitches.  Rumors that sewn steeks are stiff and compromise the drape of the fabric are paranoid nonsense.  If you use a machine stitch that matches your knitting, you won't be over sewing on the knitting, and the thread does nothing to stiffen the knitting. I suppose if your machine has tension issues, you could make a mess of it, but you won't because you'll do a test swatch like I did here when I was checking out the zig zag settings.

Obviously you wouldn't do this in red thread.  It's for visibility. Obviously.


Line up the row of stitches you want to secure according to your steek panel.  I didn't knit an official steek panel on the swatch, so you need to pretend there is one.  Here it is sewn,


And here it is cut.  Wow.  Just like that.  No hyperventilating, no shots of Scotch.  Just zip and clip, baby.

I'm heartless, I know.

Then you can pick up the stitches, two stitches for every three rows on the vertical and diagonal edges.

After the knitting of the border, you may find the yarn ends from the cut to be a little raggedy.  I tinked them out to reduce the bulk.

And then I gave them a trim.  It looks a lot tidier, and it does not (repeat: DOES NOT) compromise the security of the steek.  Everything will be fine.  I promise. 


Never mind that the left edge is all wonky.   


A few North American readers have asked me what I would substitute for the Jamieson's Shetland Spindrift because they've been having touble finding it in the right quantities.  I immediately thought of Harrisville New England Shetland, a dead ringer for Jamieson's in gauge and texture.


Harrisville New England Shetland

Here are the closest colours in my opinion. The Harrisville Oatmeal and the Cobalt are good matches for the Jamieson's Eisit and Clyde Blue to my eye, but you can see from the photo that the Leprechaun (in a special guest appearance down there at the bottom) is a different kind of green than the Harrisville Hemlock. Harrisville does offer a green that has more yellow in it, called Emerald, but I personally found it to be garish in combination with the Cobalt and the Oatmeal.  Which is not to say that you couldn't find a different combination of colours altogether, but this was just following as closely to the sample version as would be possible with Harrisville's offerings.  I think Hemlock in this combination actually warms the sweater up a little, which personally, I like.

And now for something just a little bit different.  

Classic Elite is issuing a new yarn this fall that I have heard Creative Director Pam Allen call a "Bohus style" yarn: Fresco is a 2 ply sport weight yarn, 60% wool, 30% baby alpaca, 10% angora, in 35 colours, with a recommended gauge of 6½ sts/inch on US 5 needles.  I immediately thought a stranded sweater in this yarn would be a dream to wear.  With all that lovely soft fiber, even the tender skinned among us can wear a simple camisole under the sweater and call themselves dressed. 


Classic Elite Yarns Fresco

To achieve the recommended gauge of 7 st/in, I knit a 45 stitch swatch on US size 2/ 2.25 mm needles.  I am a slightly loose knitter, being a scooper, so other knitters may get the same results on a size 3.  I found the 10% quantity of angora to be just right, giving the yarn the gentle bloom that I like about the bunny, but not enough to tickle my nose, obscure the stitches, nor to leave a trail of fluff on the upholstery.  Fresco was lovely to knit with, never split, and even in stranded knitting drapes well, but not too much.  The swatch took a few days of abuse in the bottom of my purse with only a little bloom, but not a pill in sight.  Longer wear under the arms would better represent how it would hold up, but I'm satisfied it's got longevity to it.  


steek swatch


Admittedly, Little Birds would be a different sweater in this rather than a traditional Shetland yarn: drapier, a little more feminine (as if Little Birds needs any help in that direction) and steeking it would involve securing the stitches first, but I'll show you how to do that in the next post. 

Funny things happen on a photo shoot, especially just after dawn on the streets of a busy city in the middle of a work week: suddenly, three hours have flown by and now there are people around. In this day and age, one can't go photographing just anyone as they walk through your background without the proper release forms, so the "shoot" is uh, shot. Officially speaking.

So it was with Connie Chang Chinchio's Victoria which had to be packed up before we could show the sweater worn in a more open way than just the buttoned up and slightly formal way we photographed that morning in Montreal.


Victoria Unbuttoned


As you can see, it looks a little different: more fun and flirty when a few buttons are left open. Perhaps it's the indispensable lady-like cardigan you've always promised yourself you'd make so that you always had one when you needed it (and you will). Easy to see yourself in those lovely details now, isn't it?  

Or maybe you imagine it in black, worn with skinny dark jeans and a heavy belt buckle peaking out from underneath.

Any other ideas come to mind? 

We’ll be out of “the office” for the coming week, so emails may sit for a little while.  The truly urgent business of sending out patterns will be on capable autopilot, but do forgive us if you have a question that needs answering Tuesday morning.  We’ll be mostly out of touch until the 25th.


Sereknity Sock yarn


Before our respective vacations. Kate came with me to Spencer Peirce Little Farm in Newbury, Massachusetts to the second year of Fiber Revival. There were classes, vendors, alpaca promenades, and the just plain old hanging out that is the staple of such glorious days.


Charkas demo


A turkey named Socrates spent much of the day courting anyone who stood still long enough, including Jonathon Bosworth of Journey Wheel who demonstrated spinning cotton on one of his beautiful bookcase charkas.  


Margaret in Linden


And Margaret Atkinson of Green Mountain Spinnery brought her fresh-off-the-needles version of Veronik Avery’s Linden in the new purple Yarn Over.  I talked her into giving a twirl in a suitably mossy grotto.


Jill in Linden
Jill in Linden


Jill Stover of Yarns in the Farms, who recently celebrated a major birthday, also gave it a try.  
And I caught up with Leslie Wind, who had new versions of her cable needle that was featured in the fall issue of Twist Collective. She has a new arrangement for selling them through Darcy’s Knotty Knitter if you’re still looking to get your hands on one of these.


picture of clouds


It was a glorious day, but like so many days this summer, the weather won out by mid-afternoon.  People scurried to get their wheels undercover, but all of us were glad to have had most of the day together.