Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A perfect match

I'm off to an out-of-town funeral home today, which has the bright side of making it impossible for me to do any pattern-writing whatsoever while affording me guilt-free time to knit.

And I can pack up my current mindless project in a new tinyhappy bag. I know, I know, I keep buying them, but they are so perfect! Especially the flat-bottomed ones, for socks. So when I had a chance I bought a second one in that style, and it's arrived just in time to hold my second lazy day lace shawl:

Perfect match, yes? Right down to the blue of the stitch marker!

I was working on this at my mum's over the weekend - I love this shawl for mindless knitting, especially with the Addi lace needles I bought on sale at the last knitting show - and she was marveling at the stripes. Specifically, how they seem to be coming out in consistent widths, even though there are more stitches for every pattern row. Well, I can't imagine they'll do it for much longer, but I think it's the result of Twisted Fiber Art's organic striping technique.

Whatever the reason, it's exciting to see what happens next with the colours and I get four hours of that today. Definitely a bright side.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


The trouble with having so many ideas for knitting and wanting to share them is that you have to write them down.

Another way in which writing is like knitting. It's so fun to get the idea for a great story... and such grunt work doing it justice when you put it on paper.

I was sensible yesterday and balanced my writing with some knitting. I got a whole heel finished in spite of some minor perplexity with the concept, and I do feel my first heel-flap-sock is going to be a raging success (in fact, I suspect I will want to wear these socks constantly... the Biscotte 'Soyeuse' yarn is that luscious.)

But I have more patterning to write up today. Ideally I will do two more whole ones, plus a quick review of some others, but what must be done is

just one row

Yes, in three sizes, but I've already charted out the previous row so I'll know what I'm doing.

Sadly, it's a decrease situation, which always fills my mind with numbers and confusion and a stirring desire for chocolate. If I can pull it off in the first two hours I try, I can do a lot more sock later in the day.


Monday, September 28, 2009


I spent most of the weekend writing and revising patterns, and not knitting, which just felt wrong. It was rainy and cool and perfect for sinking my teeth into a project that's nearly done, like for example the redo of the collar of the disaster cardi I made last fall that I could really stand to be wearing now.

Soon, my precious, soon.

However, I did make it all the way through the first heel flap of the September socks from my Biscotte club:

I had really hoped to have this pair done before October 1, when I get to open the next installment of yarn in said club. I'm pretty sure that's not physically possible now - at least, not if I plan to eat or sleep between now and then.

The question is, should I let myself open package #2 if I haven't finished sock pair #1? Or should I make doing that my incentive?

Friday, September 25, 2009

The joy of mindless knitting

It seems I will be doing a lot of standing around today - moments of paying attention followed by up to 45 minutes of more standing around.

This is long enough to buy sensible fruits and veg and less sensible favourite cookies for the weekend (assuming I feel like carting such things back to the standing around zone.) But it's not long enough, really, to sit down for a nice hot chocolate or breakfast square in a coffeeshop.

Isn't it lucky that I have a big hunk of mindless knitting on the needles? At this rate, I'll be finished my second shawl before the weekend's through.

* * * *

Oh my goodness it's cold out.

I knit one row of the shawl and noticed my tension was totally off, owing to stiff fingers, at which point I realized everyone around me was wearing fall coats, plus everything that goes with (socks, closed shoes, long pants) and periodically expressing a wish for the foresight to have brought a scarf. And there I was in a skirt with sandals and a short-sleeved T with a cotton cardi.

At this rate, I'll be keeping the second shawl instead of putting it in the Christmas Pressie bin...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Happiness is a hat that works

The hat I made the other day: perfection.

And it fits my cousin and suits her down to the ground,

which is nice because she then asked me whether I would consider making her one,

which is fabulous because I was planning on knitting her a stealth hat and just hoping it would fit, and now I don't have to stealth knit or hope, because I'll already know.

Also nice: she picked one of my most favourite yarns (a variegated skein of merino fingering from The Black Lamb) in colours I adore but match nothing I own.

And that means I get to knit dream yarn without worrying it will go to waste.

happy sigh.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Socks versus hats

Monday, I finished a pair of socks I started in July.

Tuesday, I took a nap, jotted down some notes for a hat I've been thinking might work, and knit said hat. While dreaming up a design for another especially awesome one.

(not that I'm drawing very many conclusions here about where my strengths lie.)

Today, I wait for the first hat to dry, and if in the end it looks like a hat and not like a giant sock for somebody's head, there will be a bonus entry to the 2009 Holiday Freebie Knits Collection here at Hugs.

I'll just be over here eating chocolate croissants while the water evaporates, 'kay?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Take that, two-month socks!

My second pair of socks are finished, at last - but is this or is this not the weirdest underside of a sock you've ever seen?

It is for me, but given my limited exposure to handknit sock undersides, perhaps this is no surprise. On, they look perfectly normal.

Of course, in a more relaxed mode, you can see more clearly how such narrow toes lend themselves to pretty lumpy grafting.

I also used a less than successful short row heel that left holes I don't find particularly decorative:

And messed up the span of said heel in such a way that the cramped front of my ankle will probably hate every minute of these socks.

Still, done! and I plan to place my trust in wet blocking and subsequent stretching, so that I can officially move on with my life. I do have a pair of particularly cool grey lace ankle socks on the needles, after all.

And a shawl.

And another shawl.

And all those Quick Christmas Knits to make and write up and post.

And some yarn that needs rolling into a ball, and a hat that needs swatching, and some fingerless gloves to finish so that I can knit even while standing around outside once the weather turns. Plus some other things that escape me at the moment.

Golly, I hope all that queuing doesn't mean I'm due for some reverse procrastination, in which I write to avoid my knitting...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sock math

Over the weekend, while updating various Ravelry projects

(an excellent way to keep track of how effective you are or are not at putting off every other possible put-off-able task in favour of knitting, by the way)

I discovered something interesting.

It takes me about 2 months to finish a pair of socks.

Math problem for September's test:

If 1 pair of socks takes 8 weeks to knit, and 1 skein of sock yarn arrives every 4 weeks 6 times and then 2 skeins of sock yarn arrive every 4 weeks 3 times,

How long before a Mary is swimming in sock yarn?

I'll tell you how long:

too soon.

(Plus, sock season is upon us and I have exactly 1 pair of finished socks.)

After I reached this conclusion, I put aside all other projects and focused on finishing my second ever pair, which are also my first in the top-down category. I did a bad shortrow heel, a ridiculously long wedge toe, and a 12-stitch grafted edge, finishing one of the two socks before my eyes got too stingy to let me finish the second wedge-and-graft extravaganza. I will do that today. The socks are imperfect, and I don't think I'll repeat this made-up pattern, but they do fit, and they are warm, and after all - isn't that the point?

That, and knitting the socks faster than the yarn comes in, sigh.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Socks and Homespun

Earlier this week I got my copies of Kathleen Taylor's The Big Book of Socks and the All New Homespun Handknit. Bliss!

I've been fortunate enough to know Kathleen for many years, and after enticing me into sock quicksand she was ready with advice and support, but this book is something else again. 75 patterns! And all distinct and mostly multi-sized! Plus a huge appendix that details the formulae for different heels and toes in different stitch counts. One of them is a short-row heel that doesn't leave holes up the side, something I wish I had read before I turned the heel on my second socks (the day before the book arrived, dagnabbit.)

The Big Book of Socks is a reference shelf keeper, over and above being a great source of fun patterns to knit for everybody you know - even if I didn't know Kathi from Adam (do I even know an Adam, I wonder?), I'd still say that every knitter needs a copy of it.

All New Homespun Handknit is just as luscious as the original, with gorgeous photography and amazing ideas. Kathleen's got a sock pattern in there too, in gorgeous sun shades that beguile thoughts of just-cool-enough autumn days.

Lovely book but - reading through it, more so than with the original, I felt wistful about not having figured out how to spin successfully. You can see with each project how the artist has followed an idea through from the very beginning with such amazing creativity... and while I love listening to music, I know too well that it's even more exciting to be in the band hearing it all around you and contributing your part.

The next day, my mailbox yielded more treasures, including another purchase of tinyhappy zip bags I've been snapping up for gifts, and as pockets for my smaller knitting projects. When I opened the parcel this time, though...

It's handspun. Plant-dyed handspun, a gift given in thanks for my devotion to all things tinyhappy (though I still feel that the thanks should be all on my side because these little bags make all my knitting feel so much more special.)

And it's my favourite knitting colour, in a perfect weight for a huge variety of possibilities, some from the book, some from my own head. I couldn't speak for several minutes - which is most unlike me - and then I couldn't make any sense at all, I was so thrilled. Thank you, Melissa!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stitch marker heaven

I used to belong to the school of 'whatever works' when it comes to stitch markers, and made do with the plastic disks you buy at a chain store, but then a kind soul sent me a set of 5 beaded markers and I discovered what I'd been missing. The beaded markers don't stretch out my stitches, they flip easily forward or back to be out of the way when I knit, and they look like bling for my needles.

Trouble is, there were only five, and I seem to have misplaced three, and the other two are perpetually on a pair of socks. I tried to go back to 'whatever works', but even with a non-hairy superwash wool scrap tied into a loop, I kept knitting the non-stitch-stretching impromptu markers into the work or, ack, sharing fibres. I found I was actually resisting casting on lace and sock projects for lack of proper tools!

Heavens to Betsy.

So I treated myself to some lovely snag-free markers from Seeking Sanity.

They are beautiful, come in many sizes, and the odds are I'll never run out. Even though I'm using them whether I need them or not, because they look so pretty and feel so nice under my fingers as I work. I have to admit that the ultra-slender loops are harder to spot than my original metal loop markers, especially on hairier yarns - I actually knit one into a stitch the other day without noticing! But they really are snag free, and oh, so gorgeous, and they come in just about every kind of bead you can imagine. And I am freely knitting again.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Lazy Day Lace Shawl - a free pattern

It's the shoulder season again - the time between hot and cold - so I've been thinking of my shoulders. And of Christmas, for which I will doubtless want to knit scads of reasonably fast flexibly-sized presents I didn't start in April as I'd planned.

This little shawl is the perfect response to both thoughts. You can knit it in a week (I knit it in four days, but I don't recommend this if you are also responsible for showing up at a day job and cooking meals and/or cleaning house), it's repetitive enough to be both soothing and suitable for watching TV or chatting over, and it's surprisingly versatile when complete.

As with many of the things I design, however, as I worked through the pattern repeats I realized the shawl was teaching me something - or maybe I was figuring something out while experimenting with the lace sequence?

This year has been an eventful one for me, challenging in just about every way you could imagine, and I haven't always known where I would find the energy to get through the next obstacle. I always did find it, but I've gotten through a lot of days on hope (plus chocolate.)

That's what this lace does. You knit a clear path - many parallel clear paths - and then you turn the work and knit a barrier that crosses all of them. The very next row you start up again as if the barrier wasn't there and you do this over and over again. In the end, when you stand back and look at the fabric, you can see that the barriers actually enrich it all. It's a lot like life, isn't it? Everybody faces challenges, and it's up to all of us to keep on keeping on; we may be individuals, but it's absolutely a collective experience.

Notes: I made this on 4mm/US 6 needles with a single skein of Twisted Fiber Art's 'Playful'; I'm now knitting another on 3mm/US 2 needles with a single skein of TFA's 'Arial'. Essentially, if you have circular needles you like and a good amount of yardage in a yarn that comes out nicely on them, you can do this shawl. Just knit to the end of what you have, and stretch it as far as you can after wet blocking.

Bonus: If you like the shawl, you'll love wearing it as a scarf with the matching hat!

November 2009: French Translation Now Available

Many thanks to Louise at Biscotte et Cie for translating this shawl pattern into French for me! Many of the gorgeous yarns at Biscotte would be perfect for this shawl, but one of the newest - Thalassa, a blend of 70% superwash merino and 30% sea cell - would be particularly scrumptious, I think. Can you imagine the sheen you'd get with the sea cell??

Download .pdf of Lazy Day Lace Shawl

View .pdf of Lazy Day Lace Shawl - French translation

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blocking mats and the things one pins to them

I finished my very first shawl!

Agonizingly, it was ready to wear on Sunday morning, rather than on Saturday when I wanted it, but that was just as well because I didn't have all my blocking gear until late Saturday night and I don't think the finished product would have been worth a second glance without it.

As it is, I think it's quite lovely.

Go blocking wires!

I figured out a few attractive ways to wear it and wrote up the pattern to share, but that will have to wait until I either recover sufficiently from my latest wicked cold-or-flu episode to be able to model it, or find somebody sufficiently untroubled by H1N1 to model it for a coughing, snuffling photographer.

Preferably the former, sigh.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Knitters' Fair harvest

I sooo did not need anything new going into the Knitter's Fair - famous last words - but I brought a list anyway. It said:

blocking pins and wires
lace addi needles - small sizes
2.25mm dpns
River John needles
go knit pouch
shawl pin

I could not choose a shawl pin, and in the end I resisted the Go Knit pouches, and I did see River John needles at one charming booth but there weren't any in a size I could use, and I didn't find any dpns I didn't already have, either.

However, I did come home with this:

and this*:

and a tube of blocking wires, which I put to good use, the results of which I will post tomorrow.

I was able to meet up with Karen and her posse, which was great not only because they are all so nice and I miss Karen terribly but because she was able to help me identify blocking wires and pins, and to find the perfect nostepinne for the size of my hand. I especially like this long narrow one because it will leave a smaller hole in the cake of yarn at the end than you get with the average crank ball winder. Plus, I'll be able to wind a really big skein on it.

As I was trying to tear myself away, I found the booth for Rose Haven Farm Store (a shop I've long wanted to visit) mainly because there was a rack of Colinette positioned enticingly where we were standing. I fell madly in love with the Art yarns (my pick: 'Autumn Leaves', draped over the right hand side of the basket above) and have already rolled it into a ball (without the new nostepinne) to get moving on another shawl/scarf thing. It's getting chilly out, you see.

* yes, thank you for noticing, that is more Alpaca Acres goodness up there in a solid honey tone. But it's more of a sport weight than what I bought last month. And, um, yes. More merino fingering from The Black Lamb. I couldn't help it! Try knitting with it yourself and you'll know why.

Friday, September 11, 2009

In which I am tenacious

Even though it is ridiculous to think that I could finish my shawl in time to block and dry it before I leave for the Knitters' Fair that starts in about 25.5 hours, especially since I'm only about halfway through the ball of yarn I expect to knit to the end of, I'm going to keep trying today.

And yes, it would make perfect travel knitting if I just stopped now and turned the heels of my socks instead. I am tenacious, not sensible!

Watch this space for pictures, Mary said, gritting her teeth and looking with determination at the bowl of shawl to her left.

PS - the pattern does look really pretty the farther I go on with it, and the instructions are easy - I'll post them as soon as I can.


Did I say tenacious? I think I meant totally unrealistic. I am making a dent in that ball of yarn now, though!


UNCLE! But I'd still like to finish this thing asap. Nights are getting chilly around here, and early mornings, too.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

I haven't a hope

It took I think two hours just to get this much done last night (after I ripped out the dog's breakfast of an earlier version - too many rhinestones, as my writing mentor would say):

Also, I don't have rust-free pins or a blocking mat, and as it turns out it's going to be pretty warm on Saturday to be wearing a shawl anyway.


I never could resist a deadline...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

What to wear

... to the Knitters' Fair?

I'm definitely going to put on my First Ever Socks, which makes it less urgent for me to finish the Second Socks (which are totally getting short row pink heels per Kathi's advice)

(speaking of whom, I was finally able to order The Big Book of Socks today and I cannot wait to get my hands on it.)

But what if it's chilly and I need a sweater?

Could I possibly - knit a shawl in two days?

Of course not.


Especially since I'm having so much trouble working out the math for the lace pattern I want to use.

But if I work it out today... and I can knit it up in time... I will totally post the pattern here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Turning two heels

Well folks, it's that time - I have to decide how to handle the heel of my Second Socks. My First Socks were a toe-up with, apparently, a short row heel that was a little tricky to figure out but fits nicely now that it's done. For that pair, I followed the essential construction of Shelia January's pretty Little Shells socks in The Knitter's Book of Yarn.

This time around, however, I'm doing top-down without any pattern at all, save the same number of stitches that worked last time, and a slight variation on the ribbing that runs down the front (so as to ensure a good fit.)

I have some lovely pink yarn to use for the heels and toes, and I want a heel that will show the contrast in stripe length to advantage, but which? I've been leafing through The Knitter's Book of Yarn, Homespun Handknit (which has wonderful sidebar summaries of tips and techniques), and The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns, and I still can't decide.

I think really the short row heel is my favourite for seamlessness and not-picking-up-stitchiness. But will it really work for a colour change?

Should I just knit the heel part of the first heel row in scrap yarn so I can carry on with my stripes, and go back and tuck in the heel later?

Might it not be best, really, to take a little break for a Fudgsicle and some shawl plotting?

Monday, September 7, 2009

Sock progress report

What with it being September and all, the air outside has been getting cooler. I've noticed that during my many, many trips between the house and the garbage/recycling/Goodwill zones in the garage as I do a very major overhaul of the house.

Cooler weather = no more sandals.

No more sandals = my mary janes.

I only wear the mary janes for a couple of months before it gets too cold and I have to put my boots on every day with heavy wool socks. Recalling this fact while sorting out my much-diminished fall wardrobe (another aspect of the overhaul) is what made the penny finally drop:

I have about 8 weeks in which to show off my handknit socks!

So I started working on the second pair again.

I'm almost ready to turn the heels, don't you think?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Reason 437 to have a big stash

Yesterday was the exciting day when my distant (as in, living in England) and much-loved cousin came to visit.

I baked muffins, put out a tablecloth, and got my favourite teapot down from the cupboard. She came bearing books, as well as an exceptionally beautiful fine-gauge sweater with a tiny hole in it. She was planning to have it fixed but wondered whether I might have some yarn that would match the colour.

Might I?

Oh please, dear reader. Once you fall for variegated yarns it's pretty darn near impossible not to have a yarn that matches every colour imaginable.

I found the perfect match in Twisted Fiber Art's 'Ember', and the perfect weight in my skein of it in Arial (yes, I bought it in two weights, it's a great colourway, don't tell me you haven't bought excessive amounts of yarn too, etc.)

Then I read the label on the sweater: silk/cashmere/wool. And I, forgetting that probably she could find a more experienced mender than I, was about to mend it with superwash wool.

Well, I thought, I'm really only adding a tiny smidge, and I went ahead while she wasn't looking.

On my first try, I made the hole much bigger, at which point I panicked and separated the two singles to make the yarn thinner.

On the second attempt, I discovered that a single of Arial is just as fragile as the roving I keep splitting when trying to spin. I pulled very gingerly on the needle after that.

Then I thought - shouldn't I be doing this with duplicate stitch? Or at least something a little more organized, as described in this article from Knitty? But I quickly put this aside, seeing as how I was already in so far over my head.

The end result is a little lumpy, more so on the inside than the outside, and it definitely does not look anonymous, but I'm not sure whether I could have done any better without a tiny thread of silk/cashmere/wool and a matching needle.

And hey, the colour is perfect!

Oh, before I forget - that's the plastic casing for a camera's memory chip thingy holding my darning needles, there. Isn't it adorable and practical? Does discovering this use for it redeem me from being horrible at actual darning?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Adventure over

I've been knitting at a fever pitch for most of the summer, in case you hadn't noticed, and I think I burned out this week. Also I'm clearing up at the moment - that back-to-school habit dies hard, and even now I do my big spring cleaning in the fall - and had to face down a closet full of totally organized yarn with random skeins of totally unorganized yarn on top.

Overall, a rather depressing environment.

I got most of it sorted

(irony: in the throes of cleaning I discovered three rattan totes I had been hoarding - very basic with two short handles, that I picked up for $1 each at the end of summer once to use for wrapping presents - and they are the perfect match for my office storage baskets, and would look awesome hanging from the wall on hooks and allow me to grab-and-go three different knitting projects
I don't have wall space anywhere for said hooks.

and then checked the Shelf Of Doom where swatches and ball bands and bits of string got shoved and at the very back I found

The Adventure Sweater.

Which I set aside in May because it's knitting I have to work out as I go and I didn't have time for that. And I looked at it and thought... I could find another shelf for it, or I could frog it, which would make it a lot easier to store. And probably would get it more quickly into service, because I love knitting with that yarn - The Black Lamb house brand sock weight hand-dyed yarns are unlike anything else in my stash (and significantly cheaper too, btw). Not to mention that the very long, very narrow needles would be back in circulation.

And let's face it: I don't have much brown in my wardrobe - enough to justify socks or a shawl, but not for a whole vest.

So I sat down and frogged it all.

I did feel a bit empty after, and still burned out even after the cupboard was all tidy again, but last night I also cleared off my kitchen windowsill and the bit of counter that gets dumped on daily, which was very mentally freeing. And this morning I woke up with a pattern for a shawl in my head, so I guess I didn't completely lose my knitting mojo. I did lose the sweater though*.

*Actually, as I typed all that, I remembered some super comfy funky brown wool cropped pants my sister gave me that match the two yarns perfectly, and thought of an even easier way to do the Adventure Sweater - more brainless, less shaping, fewer seams. So maybe...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A good day for mail

It didn't occur to me until a couple of days ago that the best thing about shopping online is that you get a thrill when you find the perfect thing, and another thrill when it arrives! instead of just one that dissipates as you carry it home, more so the heavier said perfect thing is.

Yesterday I had two thrills:

I have wanted my own copy of the out-0f-print Homespun Handknit for ages - it's a serious treasure trove of techniques and inspiration - and when I saw that Interweave has published a new version with all new patterns (including one by Kathleen!) I decided to try again to track down a copy so I could have both.

The yarn is, of course, this month's Vesper Sock Club entry. I have loved all the yarns that arrive from Julia but this one, if not my favourite, is tied with just one other for the title. I really must knuckle down and find an insanely easy sock pattern so I can just whip these things out wherever I happen to be, without worrying that I'll get to the heel while an awkward distance from my directions.

Which reminds me, Kathleen's sock book is almost officially out, so I'll be able to buy a copy really soon. Huzzah!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What have I gotten myself into?

Today is September 1! Which means two things:

Summer break is over, and

The fall Biscotte et Cie sock club is starting!

Before I even had a cup of tea I opened the bag marked 'September' this morning and, ohhhhhhh:

and also, Oh!

Beads, my friends. Plus an e-mail with a (gorgeous) sock pattern that includes said beads. I may be in over my head, here. Also, how awesome would this yarn be in a fingerless glove or mitten? (with maybe a beaded cuff?)