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I often ask myself “Do I need another reusable Market Bag?”. I always end up answering myself “Yes.” I love receiving them from foreign friends and they are a great thing to send away in return….but I crochet mine. They are a snap to craft and take just a few hours to complete. I like to add inner pockets, trick bottoms (so that the bag is self-containing) and special considerations for different kinds of groceries. For me, the Market Bag is a great go-to gift because it’s quick and easy to make, usually only takes one ball, requires no special care for the recipient to worry about, and it does any kind of person on your gift list (note: this is an excellent thing to give someone you don’t know very well. It’s also great for someone you do know, but don’t really like). Everyone is always glad to get a bag, and one more in the bottom of your purse can’t do you any harm either.
This summer The Loop is running a new workshop for Crocheters. In one session we will make a class full of greener than green bags for our summer marketing (or we will at least cover all the bases and get most of the project crocheted).
The crochet pattern for this workshop is a classic. The format for the pattern has been in use here for over 100 years. You may come across Victorian versions on the internet, or spot a lookalike on Road to Avonlea reruns*.

The pattern is designed to use a certain amount of cotton (keeping the materials at one ball) but additions such as wider straps and an attached change purse will be covered in the class.

The bag pictured (my “Posh Nosh Fennel Carrier”) used one ball of Rowan Purelife Organic Cotton DK, which has about 120m to the ball. Each colour in this line is plant dyed. This pretty blue was achieved with indigo. Indigo is the Pluto of the Colour Spectrum, poor little guy.

[From The Loop Website]Mesh shopping bags–called “filoches” in French–are a chic, practical, and environmentally friendly way to carry your produce home from the market. They’re also a great introduction to crocheting in rounds. In this workshop, you’ll learn how crochet can be used to make both firm, stable fabrics and open, stretchy ones–while making a market bag of your own.

Instructor: Morgan Forrester

2 hours

Tuesday, July 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.


Thank you Chives & Ciboulette for the photo props. I was very glad to use the fennel; very posh nosh.

*Aunt Olivia crochets throughout the series, and uses a white version of these bags to carry groceries for the Dale homestead back from Lawson’s. This was obviously my inspiration as are the Dales; Yorkshire and Jasper.
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Can knitting net you a run in with the law? ("Fuzzackles" felted handcuffs by Jodie Danenberg. Click image for pattern info.)

Can knitting get you in trouble with the law? You bet! ("Fuzzackles" felted handcuffs by Jodie Danenberg. Click image for pattern info.)

Knitters can find inspiration anywhere–but are they free to use it?

In a recent post on her excellent blog, Counterfeit Chic, fashion law expert Susan Scafidi commented on the dilemma faced by some UK knitters when they combined their twin passions for yarn and the BBC’s long-running cult sci-fi TV show, Dr. Who.

While you may take exception to Scafidi’s “granny” characterization of knitters, when it comes to intellectual property law, she knows that of which she speaks writes!

For a thorough discussion of knitting and copyright issues, read this Knitty article by Toronto intellectual property lawyer Jenna Wilson. There is also a good FAQ on knitting and copyright here

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Latvian Mitten from the Vidzeme region

A World of Hockey Knitting Comes to Halifax.

For a week now, Halifax has been co-hosting (with Quebec City) the IIHF World Hockey Championships. The streets are buzzing with jersey-clad Swedes, Norweigians, Latvians, Finns, Russians, Belarussians, Germans, Americans and Canadians, tooting, hooting and singing in support of their teams. But knitters know that these countries share a love of something even more important than long winters and puck-chasing, and that, of course is KNITTING! I’ve compiled this list of inspiring links relating to the knitting traditions of some of the IIHF participants:

Sweden

Germany

Finland

  • What’s Finland knitting? Explore hundreds of Finnish knit blogs here
  • Blogger Ketutar’s charts for traditional Finnish colour patterns

The String or Nothing blog has a great page of Russian knitting and crochet links.

Latvia

Norway

  • A free downloadable PDF guide to designing Norwegian Ski Sweaters from Interweave Knits
  • Vinter Lue, a free pattern for a traditional winter earflap hat by Theresa Vinson Stenerson on Knitty
  • A story from the New York Times archive on Norwegian knitting traditions

When it’s a worm.

If you’ve already had a look at the Ecology Action Centre’s ‘species wish list‘ for the Stitchin’ Fish display, you might have noticed an interesting phenomenon: the description of odd, mysterious deep-sea creatures by naming them after more familiar things. Examples include the glass sponge, bubblegum coral, and the barndoor skate.

The sea mouse isn’t on the wish list, but I remembered it as an organism that I found intriguing back in my days as an undergraduate biology student. Even though it is cute like a furry mouse (right?), it’s a segmented worm in the class known as a polychaetes (also called bristle worms). It does have a lovely Latin name though: Aphrodite aculeata, inspired by the ancient Greek goddess of love.

The underside of a sea mouse gives more of a clue to its true identity:

Apparently sea mice have been found in North Atlantic waters off of Newfoundand, so it’s quite possible that they could exist here on the Scotian Shelf too. That was enough for us to decide to include one in our seafloor recreation. Morgan saw the images and pounced like a cat on the opportunity to crochet a sea mouse.

I think she did a fantastic job … even the belly looks like the real thing.

Not only did Morgan whip this up in the course of the evening, she also wrote up the pattern when she was finished. Thanks Morgan!

Sea Mouse: a crochet pattern

Materials

Eyelash-style yarn for the back

Smooth worsted weight yarn in a contrasting colour

5mm/H crochet hook

Polyfill for stuffing

Instructions:

With underbelly yarn, ch16.

1 dc in 4th chain from hook; 2 dc in each ch to end, working 3 dc in last ch; ch 3.

Beginning second side, work 2 dc in each ch to end; ch3, turn.

Working second side again, work 2 dc in each dc to end. Finish off.

Working with two strands of eyelash yarn held together, join to end of underbelly and ch 3.

2 dc tog in each dc to end.

1 dc into sides of end sts and end of fdn ch, turning corners to work second side.

Repeat on second side.

Work one more dec row on first side and finish, leaving a long tail.

Sew up spine with yarn tail, stuffing sea mouse with polyfill.

Shortly after posting my brittle star pattern on Ravelry, I received a friendly message from a fellow Raveler who just happened to be an expert on brittle star taxonomy. She complimented me on my effort, but pointed out that most brittle stars have, in fact, only five arms. She suggested that the image from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans on which I had based my pattern actually depicted at least two of the creatures lumped together. (Brittle stars love company, I suppose).

I immediately set out to create a more anatomically accurate brittle star. Here is the result:

What it lacks in arms, compared to its enthusiastic predecessor, it has gained in accuracy. I suspect the proportions are still a bit off, but I’m ready to move on to the next undersea adventure! Here is the pattern for this version:

A More Accurate Brittle Star Pattern

Materials:

  • a small amount (about 25g) DK to worsted-weight yarn
  • 3mm knitting needles
  • Blunt yarn needle for sewing up

Instructions:

Cast on 6 stitches.

Row 1: knit

Row 2: Kfb, knit until 1 st remains on left needle, turn, knit to end

Row 3: Kfb, knit until 2 st remains on left needle, turn, knit to end

Row 4: Kfb, knit until 3 st remains on left needle, turn, knit to end, then cast on 40 stitches using the backwards loop (aka “simple”) cast-on.

Row 5: knit across all stitches

Rew 6: knit 9, (k2tog) 20 times, ending at tip of tentacle (for a non-curling tentacle, simply knit all stitches, for just a little curl, work fewer decreases)

Row 7: bind off 20 stitches, knit until 3 sts remain on left needle, turn, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog

Row 8: knit until 2 sts remain on left needle, turn, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog

Row 9: knit until 1 st remains on left needle, turn, knit to last 2 sts, k2tog (6 sts remain)

Row 10: knit across all stitches

Repeat rows 1 through 10 four more times, until your brittle star has 5 tentacles. Bind off the six remaining stitches.

Finishing:

Seam bind-off edge to cast-on. Run the yarn tail through the garter stitch bumps around the edge of the centre hole and draw closed. Weave in ends.

Keeping with the squiggly theme…

Remember bookworms? They hold the key to our next essential sea-creature shape: the long spiral. A perfect example of these curly shapes are the tentacles of beautiful brittle stars.

My brittle star pattern uses shortrows and the “bookworm technique” — a cast-on, followed by a row of decreases, followed by a bind-off — to create a more-or-less disc shaped creature with a fringe of curly arms. As far as I can tell, brittle stars can feature any number of tentacles . I stopped at 10. [Edit–Cathy, The Loop’s resident biologist–tells me that brittle stars have radially symmetrical, 5-sectioned bodies. Their arms grow out of each section, so they always have a multiple of 5. (Unless someone nibbled one of them off and the appendage hasn’t regenerated yet).

knitted brittle star

Here is the “official” pattern for the star pictured above, but the techniques can be adapted to craft all sorts of wiggly things.

Brittle Star Pattern (Edit: see a more accurate pattern here)
Materials:

  • a small amount (about 25g) DK to worsted-weight yarn
  • 3mm knitting needles
  • Blunt yarn needle for sewing up

Instructions:

Cast on 6 stitches.

Row 1: knit 6, cast on 34 stitches using the backwards loop (aka “simple”) cast-on.

Row 2: knit 36, turn work (4 stitches will remain on left needle), knit 2, then ktog 17 times to end of row (tip of tentacle)

Row 3: cast off 16 stitches, knit to end of row (6 stitches remaining)

Repeat rows 1 through 3 until your brittle star has as many tentacles as you think it should have. I stopped at 10. Bind off the six remaining stitches.

Finishing:

Seam bind-off edge to cast-on. Run the yarn tail through the garter stitch bumps around the edge of the centre hole and draw closed. Weave in ends.

Did you know that June 8th is World Oceans Day?

Nova Scotia is not quite an island, though as a peninsula we are surrounded by the ocean in all directions. One of the many lovely things about this place is that you are always just a short distance away from a coast. The ocean and resources found in it make a significant contribution to the social and economic life of Nova Scotia, yet most people who live here are unaware that there are coral reefs in the waters adjacent to Nova Scotia.

Colourful corals provide habitat for many fish and other species in the waters off Cape Breton. Click on the image at left to see more of the fantastic photos taken on the federal Fisheries department’s research trips.

For Oceans Day 2008, The Loop is teaming up with the Ecology Action Centre to create a sample of the North Atlantic seafloor right here in our display window. We would like this to encourage people to learn about the marine environment that is almost at our doorstep. But we’ll need help! We are going to gather up knitted and crocheted sea creatures to use in the display. We’d love it if you could help out.

The Figuring Institute’s crocheted coral reef can provide some inspiration for patterns, along with the following:

a lobster

a squid

a free fish mobile pattern from local designer Nettle Knits

For more ideas and inspiration, join us any Thursday night for Loop Group (6-9 p.m., everyone is welcome). Also stay tuned for a special crochet coral tutorial.

I’ve knitted a little cluster of sea anemones and can’t wait to see how they will look as part of a larger ecosystem.

The Ecology Action Centre has set up a Facebook event page for this project. Why not join up, and invite your friends too?

There’s no denying that many knitters have come to rely on the computer as an essential tool. Even if you don’t spend every spare moment in the parallel knitting universe of Ravelry, you probably do search the internet for patterns, inspiration and technical support from time to time.

But have you ever thought about how your computer can help you offline too? I often use Excel, Microsoft’s spreadsheet program, to plot out shaping or stitch patterns: first I set the spreadsheet’s grid to a proportion that reflects my stitch and row gauge, then I select symbols from the standard Microsoft fonts to signify increases, decreases and various other stitches, and pop them in the graph where necessary. Until today.

As I was tinkering with the pattern charts I’ve made for the upcoming Introduction to Knitted Lace class, I began to wonder if some tech-savvy knitter out there hadn’t designed a font of standard knitting symbols–the kind you see in commercial patterns. Google answered my question in about 1/100th of a second and made me feel silly for not having asked the question sooner. I downloaded Aire River Design’s free TrueType font. It was easy to install and includes a great range of symbols, including dozens of increases and decreases.

XRX–the publisher of Knitter’s Magazine–also has a free knitting font available on this page, which also features a downloadable PDF of a great article by David Xenakis on using Photoshop to create colour charts from digital images.

What about you? Is your computer a useful knitting tool?

Whenever we receive a shipment of a new item, I get a serious case of cast-on-itis. A couple of weeks ago it was the Tofutsies … I had to get some going to see what it is like. (It is nice! A soft cottony silky feel, very cushy.) Creating samples for the store provides a convenient excuse.

Today we received a package of Fiddlesticks Lace Sensation accompanied by a nice intermediate lace pattern. Lace Sensation is 100% silk in a slightly heavier lace weight. The best thing is, a single 50 gram ball (240m) is all it takes to make one of the “Lacy Botanical” scarves. The price of a ball is $10.00, so at that price they will make great gifts …

Naturally I’m itching to give it a try, see how this yarn knits up and also try an intermediate lace pattern that’s a little more challenging than what I’ve done so far. The hardest thing will be to decide on a colour …

Cathy is merriment
Mimi is starlings
Morgan is pomoboho
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