September Show & Share

Cheryl’s striped Find Your Fade made with Indigodragonfly Cariboubaa and Gobsmacked Four Quarter.

Barb brought in her version of Wist which she made with Cascade 220.

Barb also brought her LiCa which she made with Mirasol Sulka Legato.

Erin brought in her version of Flyway Twist which she made with a gradient from coriand3r knits, and a Cascade neutral.

Sandy brought in her Comforati Hat which she made with Cascade Cloud

Sherrill brought in her Ombre Cowl Hood that she made with Debbie Bliss Angel

Please let me know if I missed anyone!

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Sustainable Yarn Crafting

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my impact and my family’s impact in terms of the products we use, and particularly the ones we dispose.  Since digging into this, it’s feeling for me very much like a party I am SUPER late to, but one whose block-rockin’ beats I’ve been hearing in my periphery for years.  I’ve finally hit a straw-and-the-camel-back point in our household where I’m ready to get pretty darn militant about it (possibly I stepped on one tiny sharp plastic toy too many – Kinder Eggs, I’m lookin’ at you), and I decided to take Yarn Club along with me.  Naturally, Here are some of the things we talked about:

Photo credit: Sara Gresbach

There are two ways that your yarn habit can fit in to your greening efforts.  The first is by making things that will support your waste reduction.  The second is by committing to use only yarn and related supplies that are themselves sustainable.  But first, some key terms!

The Stable Ones The Tricky Ones The Zeitgeisty Ones
sustainability green Slow Fashion
organic ecological (or “eco” or
“eco, friendly, etc.)
recycled upcycled Carbon Footprint
repurposed environmentally-friendly
GMO (& nonGMO) natural
fair trade

Why “stable,” “tricky,” and “zeitgeisty?” The stable terms are ones whose meanings are easy to get a grip on.  They mean only one thing (although admittedly in Canada, “local” can be a subjective measurement).  The tricky ones are so named because they can be hard to pin down.  They’re easily manipulated by advertisers and misinterpreted by consumers.  The zeitgeisty ones are those trendy terms you hear thrown around by the movement-du-jour.  “Slow Fashion” is one that, as a knitter with my particular set of interests, I see come up in my social media feed with great regularity. In our discussion at Yarn Club, a member mentioned that Karen Templer of Fringe Supply Co. blogs often about slow fashion. In Ontario, our local fibreshed movement is the Upper Canada Fibreshed.

The first way to work crafting into sustainability efforts is to make items that will help you on your quest to be more earth-conscious.  Embarking on this topic, I created my little crochet basket using plastic bags as a core to give the fabric the body to hold its shape.  I also enjoyed quick projects like the soap sachet pictured above, and Simply Notable’s weightless produce bag.  Another easy thing to do for us yarn enthusiasts is to use up our stash.  Using existing resources rather than buying new ones is an obvious way to decrease the demands on our planet.  Equally, giving away things that you no longer have a use for (de-stashing perhaps??) redistributes existing resources. (Further on the topic of recycling plastic bags, see Milk Bags Unlimited. In Guelph, Dublin Street United Church is collecting for this cause.  Also in Guelph, the Stone Store is the place to go if you are trying to buy without packaging – bring your own containers to fill with bulk food items.)

The above lists the elements you need to consider in determining whether or not a product is sustainable.  Each step in the production chain must be considered.

Sustainable farming is a complicated balance of relationships and resources.  The Union of Concerned Scientists offers a good 101 overview.

Do you remember the bamboo-clothing-craze of the early ’00s? I distinctly remember the labelling changing to “Bamboo-sourced Viscose” instead of the much more innocuous sounding “bamboo.” Talk about pulling the wool over our eyes.  Bamboo fibre may start out in nature, but the process of turning the fibres from woody plant material into useable fabric is incredibly toxic to the environment and the workers who produce it.  Soy is another example of fibre that comes from a “natural” source but becomes a chemical wasteland on its way to being spun into a yarn.  Not to mention the fact that soy is an extremely pesticide-heavy crop unless it is grown organically.

Natural vs. synthetic dyes is such a can of worms, and I can only nod at it here.  Nor am I really certain there’s a good and clear answer to the debate.  However, you can read more about it from Dharma Trading,  from Organic Lifestyle. Bonus points for reading about Rachel Brown’s sequential method of acid dyeing, which I find fascinating.

Photo credit: The Rocking Yak

When you’re considering the overall impact of a product, you mustn’t overlook the impact it has on the workers who are making it.  What chemicals are they being exposed to? What is their working environment like? Are they being compensated fairly? Two companies worth investigating for their contributions in this area are the Mirasol Project, and the Rocking Yak, both of whom are working to support the communities in which they operate beyond the financial aspect.

Ways to reduce the carbon footprint of your project include buying locally produced yarn and tools; using natural fibres such as wool and other animal fibres, or cotton and bast fibres that require minimal processing to render into yarn; choosing yarns that haven’t been “superwashed” or “mercerized” which are both chemical processes involving caustic soda.

I pulled these numbers from this article about estimating the total carbon footprint of a fabric.  The upside for us yarny types is that the energy required to turn yarn into fabric is being provided by us! We’re so renewable…

A final and straightforward way to keep your knitting/crochet/etc green is to seek out existing resources.  Much like using your stash or even de-stashing unwanted yarn, this reduces demand for new materials and thereby reduces the overall planetary strain of your hobby.  Many people haunt second hand stores looking for sweaters that they can dismantle.  Pro-tip: since many machine-made sweaters are very fine gauge, and the yarn you can unravel from them isn’t well suited to hand-knitting (unless you’re VERY ambitious and blessed with vast fields of time), a good solution is to befriend someone with a spinning wheel and have them ply several of the yarn strands together to make a thicker yarn to work with.

That’s it for me. What are your best green crafting tips?

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Crochet Basket Using Plastic Shopping Bags for the core

This month I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make my crafts more eco-friendly.  One thing in particular I try to combat in my house is plastic shopping bags.  Despite the fact that I have been using cloth shopping bags for years, I can’t seem to completely eliminate the plastic ones from my life.  I just hate throwing them out.  Every time I see those heart-wrenching images of sea creatures inundated with plastic bags I think “Oh my god, is that pink floating one MINE?” which of course is exactly their aim.  GOOD JOB YOU GUYS, I AM TOTALLY GUILT-RIDDEN.  I’ve got to DO something with them though, and being a yarny-type that is of course where I headed first.  I’ve got to say though, I don’t love the look of the “plarn” people have come up with when it’s used on its own.  I wanted to create something that didn’t look quite so much like… well, trash.

So I started to play around with using plastic bags as a core, and covering it with yarn.  I cut up my plastic bags as per the “plarn” instructions I found (since the idea here is not to throw any plastic out, I didn’t throw away the handles, and I cut the bottom open instead of off – any leftover pieces I just tied on to the other strips with a double knot).  I made the strips approximately 1 1/2″ wide.

I own an I-cord machine (Embellish-Knit) which I love, and I used it to create an I-cord which I then threaded the plastic yarn through to sort of stuff it.  The result was something you could use to braid or wrap (or crochet using it as your yarn) into a basket or rug, but I wasn’t satisfied with the efficiency of the technique, so I turned to crochet.

I found this lovely tutorial for making a crochet rope basket and used the basic premise to crochet over the strips of plastic bag instead of rope.  The result is this little improvised basket.  I used Noro Silk Garden Sock and a 5 mm (H-8) hook to crochet, and in total used up 5 shopping bags in its creation. I wouldn’t use thinner than fingering weight yarn for this project unless I was making skinnier plastic strips, but I do intend to experiment with heavier yarn weights (and corresponding larger hook sizes as well). For example if you wanted to hide more of the plastic of the core, a heavier yarn would help fill in those spaces.

It gets a little lumpy in areas where I crocheted over the knots in the plastic, but I think it has a certain rustic charm.  Plus it’s cheerful, holds its shape well, and doesn’t look like it belongs in a landfill.  I plan to make more, larger baskets with my remaining bags (Perhaps a market basket with shoulder straps? Hmm.).  I’m glad to have an actual demonstrable use for the bags that find their way into my house, although I’ll continue to combat them wherever possible.

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June Show and Share

Sandy shared a delightful pair of socks, aptly called Fine Socks, a pattern by Kim Petryshen. Sandy knit hers in Fleece Artist Cottage Socks.

Fine Socks, photo via JoEdgett, Ravelry

Gillian brought in her Oban Sweater, a classic looking cabled sweater by Thea Colman. The yarn she used is Blue Moon Targhee Worsted

Oban Sweater, photo via Thea Colman, Ravelry

Valerie earned some ooo’s and ahhh’s from the Yarn Club crowd with her stunning Stained Glass Cowl by Wendy D. Johnson. The yarns she used are Cascade Heritage Paints and Ella Rae Lace Merino.

Stained Glass Cowl, photo via RioBioBIo, Ravelry

And let’s not forget the most perfect use of a variegated yarn, Valerie’s Pincha Shawl by Pinpilan Wangsai. The yarn is Fleece Artist Merino Slim in Kluane Yk. I don’t think you could have chosen a more suitable yarn for this pattern. Bravo!

Northern Light Pincha Shawl, photo via RioBioBIo, Ravelry

I shared a sweater I finished for my nephew’s third birthday, the Wilhem Tell (Iceland Yoke Sweater) by Elin Brissman. My nephew is REALLY into ‘digs’ and anything to do with large construction equipment, and his birthday party (coming up this Sunday!) is construction themed. I loved the pattern for the simplicity and the fun arrow yoke detail, and the colour combination looked just perfect on the sample so I used the same colours. I picked up the yarn at the Spinrite factory outlet in Listowel (total aside, have you all been there? It’s AMAZING!), it’s Patons Classic Wool DK Superwash.

Wilhelm Tell (Iceland Yoke Sweater), photo via Allison McCoy, Ravelry

Happy knitting,


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June Meeting Recap

As my meeting reminder emailed said, who doesn’t love an alpaca? Wendy Cross from Lady Slipper Alpacas was our guest at our last meeting before breaking for the summer. Wendy shared pictures of her lovely alpaca herd and told us all about these critters.

Wendy got into raising alpacas kind of by accident, she told us how she and her husband wanted some animals for their farm and thought alpacas looked cute. It seems bringing home a cute and cuddly animal is a great way to kick start a new business venture! Fast forward a bit and Wendy now has a number of alpacas and produces fleece and fibre to sell at shows. Wendy shared some insider details about alpacas and their adorable noises (seriously, YouTube it), and told us they make great watch dogs.

Check out Wendy’s website for more information about her products, and you can find her at local shows and festivals if you’re looking to purchase anything from her. You can find her next at the Black Sheep Festival in Elora on July 7.

This was also my last meeting acting as the facilitator for Yarn Club, and I wanted to thank everyone for their support and encouragement over the last year. Thank you for your feedback, your attendance and participation at meetings, and your support of the fibre community. I’ll continue to be a member at Yarn Club and you can find me at meetings or on Ravelry. Alexis is back leading the charge when Yarn Club returns in September. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details about next year’s program.

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May Show and Share Recap

This month was a great roundup of your recently finished items, thank you to everyone who shared!

Judy shared two different projects with us, here’s her Cirrus, which can be best described as a combination sweater/poncho. Nancy O’Connell is the designer, you’ll find this pattern published in Shibui Knits. Judy made hers in an Americo original yarn held together with Debbie Bliss Rialto Lace.

Cirrus, photo via Shibui Knits, Ravelry

Judy’s second share was actually two items – an adorable matching pair of ponchos for a set of twins! This is Temptation Poncho and Hat Set by Tatsiana Matsiuk. She used Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran.

Temptation Ponco and Hat Set, photo via Tatsiana Matsiuk/ViTalinaCraft, Ravelry

Judy knit these while on an epic road trip around the US. A long car ride just isn’t complete without knitting.

Liz shared a wonderful book she picked up recently – Uniform, Knit and Sew by Madder and Grainline Studio. Liz spoke highly of the patterns in the book, and how they are very customizable.

UNIFORM - knit & sew / Book & E-Book
She shared some other great resources with the group, including some favourite fabric stores if you’re into sewing:

Needlework – 174 James St N, Hamilton
Spool and Spindle – 142 Waterloo St, Waterloo

Both stores sell 100% cotton double gauze.

Liz also shared an excellent pattern for pants, which she was wearing at the meeting – Pants No. 1 from 100 Acts of Sewing.

Roxann shared her Mesh Wrap, a pattern by Iris Schreier, from One + One, Scarves, Shawls, and Shrugs. She made her shawl using Crooked Kitchen Yarns 50/50 wool and silk, the colour is Whippoorwill.

Mesh Shawl, photo via beadaddictroxy, Ravelry

Sharon showed us here arm sleeve for Alzheimer patients, a great project to use up lefover yarn.

I shared my yet-to-be-named knitted doll, originally made for my niece’s first birthday, but quickly turned into a project that will wait until she’s a bit older. The basic doll is from Knitted Dolls by Arne and Carlos, and I’m most excited about now starting the wardrobe collection for the doll. I figure I will have a doll with a selection of outfits done in time for her fifth birthday. Unless I get too attached and decide to keep the doll for myself.

Happy knitting,


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May Meeting Recap of Successful Yarn Substitutions

Our May guest speaker was our very own Alexis, who shared helpful tips and information about successfully substituting yarn in a project. Do you ALWAYS use the yarn the pattern calls for? I’m guessing probably not. I know I don’t. Sometimes the yarn is unavailable in your area, it’s discontinued, or you simply found another yarn you’d rather use. Cool. That’s fine. Alexis gave us the tools and knowledge to help us chose an alternate yarn for a pattern without the whole project turning into a disaster.

Get ready for it….GAUGE! Of course this discussion is going to start with talking about gauge. You can’t avoid it, I’m afraid. And if you want to advance your skill as a knitter, it’s something you need to embrace.

When considering YOUR gauge for a particular yarn and pattern, keep in mind that this is very individual, and affected by many factors. Your needle size is the easy one to change around to adjust the number of stitches per inch, go up or down a needle size or two to change your gauge. D’uh. But don’t forget that your tension affects your gauge (relax!), as does the material of your knitting needles (bamboo vs. metal), and the fibre content of the yarn you’re using (more on that later).

Before choosing a yarn to substitute, assess your pattern. What is the required “bounce” factor of your finished piece? Will the weight of the garment affect your yarn choice? Wool wants to bounce back and it has memory to hold its shape, while cellulose as ZERO elasticity. Are you working with a blend? How much of the fibre is non-elastic?

To add another level to the consideration, ask WHY a pattern calls for a particular fibre. Substituting 100% cotton for a garment pattern that calls for wool is an…interesting choice. Do you want to go against that recommendation?

Alexis broke down substitutions into two levels:

Level 1 – match all the features of the called-for yarn, ie. untreated BFL for untreated BFL, superwash for superwash.

Level 2 – change the protein fibre blend, ie. wool vs. alpaca vs. blends. Swapping your yarn for a blend with a non-elastic component will affect the ‘grow’ of the piece, which translates to your row gauge.

The other factor to consider before substituting yarn is the construction of the yarn. How is it spun/plied? Worsted spun yarn is more common, but woolen spun is making a comeback. The way the yarn is spun will affect the yardage, as airier, lofter spun yarns fill out the yardage. Don’t rely on the weight terms you see on the label. Yarns designated as ‘worsted weight’ span a large spectrum, so this is not the only factor you should look at when comparing yarns.

So you’ve poured over all of the details of your yarn-to-be, you’re familiar with the fibre content, you’ve analyzed the yarn construction, you’ve considered your gauge – now what? Consider your ratios, the number of yards or meters compared to the weight of the ball of yarn. When a yarn labeled ‘worsted weight’ doesn’t line up with what you expect, be a yarn detective and ask yourself WHY it is different from what you expect.

Alexis showed some great resources during her talk, including a Yarn Substitutions Cheat Sheet which will be shared with Yarn Club members.

Best of luck in your yarn substitutions!

Happy knitting,


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April Show and Share

Laura shared a few of her recently finished projects – first up, Warriston by Kate Davies, knit in emerald green Malibrigo worsted.


Warriston, photo via TwinOaksFarmFibre, Ravelry

Here’s Spindrift, by Helen Stewart, knit in Laura’s own Twin Oaks Farm fingering yarn

Spindrift, photo via TwinOaksFarmFibre, Ravlery

And for a spot of colourwork, how about this Merrie Dancers Toorie by Elizabeth Johnston, knit in Uradale Shetland DK?

Merrie Dancers, photo via TwinOaksFarmFibre, Ravelry

Liz brought in her Highway 61 Pullover, pattern designed by Jennifer Owens. She knit hers in Berroco Blackstone Tweed, and shared with us that the cables were a bit of slog, but she was happy with the finished item.

Highway 61 Pullover, photo via Interweave/Harper Point Photography, Ravelry

Liz also shared her finished Building Blocks Shawl, a mystery knit-along by Stephen West. She knit hers in Hedgehog Fibres Skinny Singles. Liz didn’t love this project, but we all agreed it was a beautiful finished piece!

Building Blocks Shawl, photo via westknits, Ravelry

Cheryl shared her Pavonis cardigan, featuring some delicate bead work. Robynn Weldon is the designer, and Cheryl knit her version in ColourMart Cashmere/Silk.

Pavonis, photo via Cheryl21, Ravelry

Jean brought in a darling stuffed toy, Puppy Love by Lorraine Pistorio. Her version including a knitted bowtie (which conveniently covered the seaming!). She knit her puppy in Vanna’s Choice for an easy-care toy.

Puppy Love, photo via Lorraine Pistorio, Ravelry

Jean also shared her Eleanor Cowl, a pattern by Audrey Knight, knit in Cascade Sport Superwash.

Eleanor Cowl, photo via AudKnits, Ravelry

Bogna shared her Iðunn sweater, by Ragga Eiríksdóttir. She knit hers in Lettlopi.

Iðunn, photo via Bogworks, Ravelry

Remember back in October when Mindy from Raven Knit Designs came to talk to us about shawls? I LOVED this talk, and I immediately went home to search for a “house shawl” pattern that I could wrap around me as an extra layer when I’m bumming around the house. The shawl I chose is Daybreak, by Stephen West, and I just finished it in March. The yarns I used are Georgian Bay Fibres Bayfield Fingering for the main colour and a gradient mini skein pack from Frabjous Fibres for the shades of green. I wear this shawl almost every day.

Daybreak, photo via vrock, Ravelry

I also shared the details about a neat little shawl pin I bought specifically for wearing with this shawl. Mindy spoke about penannular shawl pins during her talk, and the idea haunted me for months. As soon as my shawl was off the needles, I scoured Etsy for the perfect handmade shawl pin. The pin I bought is from QuirkySue’s on Etsy.

Handforged Copper Penannular Shawl Pin,  | Copper Cloak Pin | Celtic Penannular Brooch | Metal Scarf Pin or Strap Fastener. Small Size.Handforged copper penannular shawl pin, photo via QuirkySues, Etsy

Happy knitting,


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coriand3r knits April talk

It was a nice change to have a guest speaker at Yarn Club this month, and Chantelle from coriand3r knits was a perfect burst of COLOUR at our spring meeting with her long colour change gradients. Chantelle broke her talk into two parts, discussing social media for fibre enthusiasts in the first part, and details about her business and dying techniques in part two.

One of the best pointers Chantelle shared about social media was using it as a way to support your favourite small businesses. Speaking as an indie-dyer, Chantelle LOVES when her customers tag photos of things they’ve made with her yarn. What a wonderful way to let a business know your support them and love what they do. Don’t be shy about tagging a business in your next Instagram post; they get the notifications and it can help build their business.

Chantelle spoke to us about her experience with Instagram as the voice of the promotional campaign for the 2017 KW Knitters’ Fair as well as for her own business. She spoke about using hashtags to make your posts searchable, and to join in on trends on social media. Think of hashtags as tags for your posts, and make note of any ‘official’ hashtags for events so you can be part of the feed of searchable tags.

Part two of Chantelle’s talk was about her dying process, which was originally inspired by her long search for red an black variegated yarn. Frustrated with the search, she set out to make her own! Her original introduction to dying was at Dye Camp by Indigodragonfly, and she hasn’t looked back since. Chantelle was very open to discussing her dyeing process and techniques, and shared loads of pictures. My favourite details from her talk were her recent investment in an employee – a electric ball winder – and the Nina Soft Sping Dryer she uses to spin almost all of the water out of her skeins before drying.

Connect with Chantelle at a number of upcoming fibre festivals and events this year, details about her scheduled shows can be found on her website.

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Cineprismatic Shawl Errata

For copies of patterns downloaded or purchased in hard copy before April 15th, 2018, Rows 7 & 15 in Section 1 – Mini Coloured Honeycomb should read as follows:

Row 7: K2 MC, P1 MC, P2 CC, P1 MC, *Sl M, P2 MC, P2 CC, P1 MC, rep from * 4 more times, K2 MC.

Row 15: K2 MC, P1 MC, P2 CC, P2 MC, P2 CC, P1 MC, *Sl M, [P2 MC, P2 CC] twice, P1 MC, rep from * 4 more times, K2 MC.

Pattern files on Ravelry and have been updated.

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