Thursday, October 29, 2009

Knitting vs. sewing

I do realize that knitting and sewing need not be in competition, and can in fact be a wonderfully complementary pair of skills, but I'm in the final hours of my annual Halloween costume panic and starting to not see straight, so let's discuss.

Cutting and sewing:

so much faster.

less worry about small items falling through the fabric or larger ones distorting its shape.

potentially, less portable (my 1940s table-embedded Singer doesn't get out much.)

more fussy to fit, unless sewing with a knit, and even then...


so much nicer against your skin than a stabby pin you forgot you left pointing out of the sewing basket.

on the other hand, so much more deadly when a needle sticks into a vital area, as opposed to the pin-in-palm scenario.

possible to do with closed eyes.

way easier to go back to the beginning of than, say, an already-cut piece of fabric sewed and seamed and embellished incorrectly over a period of 3 fruitless hours while watching a movie that wasn't even that interesting, dagnabbit.

You can't eat chocolate while doing either one, though, apart from Smarties. Is there anything Smarties can't do?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Just thinking

... about chunky and super chunky yarn.

Mostly because of a hat, go figure - an idea's been milling around in my head waiting for me to do something about it and I think it will only work with seriously chunky yarn.

Are you old enough to remember those giant hollow plastic novelty needles people made sweaters out of in the 70s, the kind you still see around a bit today? My sister made a pullover with a red-tipped pair, a checkerboard design on essentially square pieces for the front and back and sleeves and a boatneck that suited her down to the ground. The yarn was kind of a warm tan, and not entirely unlike the size of a rope you'd find on a sailboat.

I'm thinking something that thick would be about right for what I have in mind. But superchunky yarn would do.

Of course, I'm just thinking.

Not buying more yarn!

Because that's not tempting at all.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Invisible increases vs. conversational finesse

I spent a lot of time yesterday waiting, and when I'm waiting, I like to be knitting. That way, I feel I'm having a nice knit, and the waiting is merely incidental.

Sadly, what I was knitting incorporated a lot of invisible increases. Right raised increases, to be exact - the ones where you pick up the right-hand loop of the stitch below the next stitch on the right needle, and knit it. It makes a little heart-shaped mark that grows less conspicuous as you go along, and though it isn't entirely invisible really, it is quite pretty and does have the advantage of

Not Leaving A Hole.

And outside of lace, that is a really nice thing.

So why the sad?

Well, chances are that if you're sitting around waiting, other people are also sitting around waiting. And I'm one of those people who can't help talking to other people sitting around in the same small space with me.

Even if I could, it's difficult not to attract conversation starters from those people when they are watching you knit something, especially when that something is a gorgeous pinky purple with just enough halo to let even a non-knitter know that they are witnessing a Highly Luxurious Experience.

And let me tell you - much as I love chatting, that is the last thing you want to do when executing a long series of right raised increases every other row for about a million rows without a counter. I somehow managed to forget from one dpn to the next whether or not I was on an increase row and, consequently, increased about half the times I was supposed to on any given set of four needles.

When I was finally done the increases and was either 5 short or 4 over, I had to lump it and rip back about 3 hours' work.

Still, it's goreous pinky-purple luxury yarn! So reknitting it perfectly this time isn't so bad really.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to double check that my row counter is packed for today's round of waiting.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Nice places to buy yarn online

I buy a lot of yarn online these days, because much as I value and want to support my local yarns stores - I don't have any. None that I can get to on foot, anyway, just the kind I have to give up a few hours to get to and mill around in and come back from, and I rarely get a few consecutive hours that aren't allocated to three other things.

So I thought I'd kick off the weekend by throwing out the sources of some yarn currently (or very very recently) on my needles:

Biscotte et Cie and Knitterly Things you will surely have heard about here, as I am in sock club heaven with both. What you might not know is that Biscotte has a huge (and growing) range of yarns, and Knitterly Things' Vesper Kid Mohair is pretty awesome stuff, which I used recently with fabulous results (more on that another day.)

I'm also quite partial to the quality of the yarn and, yum, the colours combined in the mind of The Midnight Sheep, where you can now buy enough custom-dyed yarn to make an entire sweater. This is, I think, an extremely nice feature of the shop.

Quite A Handful is now not just a gorgeous blog, but also an Etsy shop where, periodically, one can avail oneself of handspun yarn. Being in possession of some of it in plant-dyed form - you may perhaps remember my swoons when it arrived - I can assure you the spinning is fabulous. And again - colours? Wow? Check out this stunning blue, which I was trying to be all fiscally responsible about not buying and then wanted anyway and missed my chance at.

And with that - I'm off for a long weekend. Back again sometime Tuesday, hopefully with lots of finished objects to not talk about yet!

Update, on Saturday:

Man, I just can't keep away. Two things:

a/ YAY, I finished two of the four super urgent projects last night and

b/ even bigger YAYYYY! A Piece of Vermont has a new shop update. Jessie's yarns: also awesome, with gorgeous colours, and featured in both my Meditation Mittens and the hat that will appear in 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Not knitting, yet still knitty

Do you want to hear from me if I'm not knitting? I suppose if you're stuck on my prose alone, you could make do by reading my Procrastination Diary. Today's entry is a confession of the obsessing I've been doing about a war memorial I visited on the weekend - a decidedly non-knitty topic, save for my having noticed and stared at and reflected on the knitted helmet it wears under its metal one.

Anyway I am knitting really, or at least I do have a bowl of knitting on my desk waiting for me to chart out the next row. It's come to that, yes - a charted pattern with lots of cables and twists and slipped stitches.

And I have a little tinyhappy zip bag full of a swatch for another hat, a design commission no less, that will also require some charting. Probably not in the final pattern, but definitely as I work out the repeats for the body of the hat.

AND... I'm looking at knitting books. Of the four I had in my clutches the other day, I will be making room on my bookshelf for two (Reversible Knitting and The Knitter's Book of Wool), which means losing the pretty flowerpot in which I'd been storing stash. I could move it to the desk, but I really don't think there's space there either; and it's not as though I didn't give myself two workbaskets to store works in progress. I don't knit anything large enough to require more than one skein, after all - two baskets ought to be plenty.

(They aren't, but I need these books in reach, so too bad.)

Ah, books. I have a friend who, owing to work and time constraints, does most of her knitting mentally, having a special gift for visualizing the piece's progress as she reads a pattern line by line.

That must be pretty nice. I read patterns and get ideas either for using the techniques in them for entirely different projects, or for adding in different techniques and features. That is mostly exhausting, even if it is invigorating when I manage to pull it off.

I don't know what to do with the stitches that most attract me in Reversible Knitting. I think the reversibility aspect doesn't interest me; I think I just love the gorgeous, gorgeous stitches and the economy of having one that can serve two entirely different purposes. By which I mean that right side out would be one for one kind of hat, and the other for another kind of hat. Double the inspiration, double the fun!

And now, if you will excuse me, I must get back to my Not Knitting. Not knitting at all, no.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


The other day I looked around and realized I need to step back from knitting, for at least enough hours in a week to tidy up consistently and cook a few meals and get some exercise.

Then yesterday, I saw this.

This is not what I had in mind when I wrote 'some exercise'. I don't even own a spinning wheel, let alone bobbins. What I have is quite a bit of very nice roving I had already decided to use in Other Ways besides spinning it.

So, I'm not going to take a beginner's class in spinning every Saturday for a month in one of my very favourite yarn stores. However, I am going to want to.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reading frenzy

omigosh omigosh omigosh

Reversible Knits

Sweater Surgery

Reversible Knitting


The Knitter's Book of Wool

all in One. Day.

Which is to say that Tom, my local postal van delivery friend, dropped by yesterday with the two books I'd ordered, and I got to the library to pick up the two I'd put on hold. And I'm, um, totally restrained about it all and will continue with all knitting and patterning today as planned, perusing the pages only while daintily consuming crustless sandwiches.


Monday, October 19, 2009


What I did not get done on the weekend:

Knitting something pretty enough to photograph during the lovely weather we had on Sunday (knitting something hideous and unsuccessful, however - yes.)

Remembering to bring my bag along with me for Sunday's outing - the one with my wallet and camera and scarf and mitts in it

Sensible eating of any kind (pecan tarts making an appearance during Sunday's outing, immediately before the donut shop stop and well before the arrival of the Key Lime Pie)

Calorie burn sufficient to compensate for said pecan tarts, even given the loss of the scarf and mitts which were Very Much Needed in spite of the weather looking so lovely

What I did get done on the weekend:

Remembering my even more important bag of knitting for Sundays' outing

(Which allowed me to complete a swatch for something that probably can't help but be pretty)

Ordering a pair of winter-friendly boots

Roasting a chicken and making stock from same

Putting up all the Halloween decorations

and whipping together a replacement for last Christmas' door wreath:

Seriously, check out the colour combinations on that dried maize! I wonder how many of the base colours I have in my stash?

Friday, October 16, 2009


Remember I said I had more free holiday knit patterns coming this fall?

Well, I've knit pattern #2 twice now, in two different yarns, and it works beautifully both ways. I kept the first go, and wear it constantly. The second went to my cousin who has since taken it back to England, and she loves hers too.

Ah, how well I remember the delights of knitting that second Thing! Such a gorgeous yarn. When I got to the finishing I made notes for an improvement over the original.

This is important, because I couldn't possibly remember doing that if I hadn't been writing those notes down somewhere.

Emphasis on 'where', I'm afraid.

I've been looking and looking and I can't find my pattern instructions anywhere. Evidently I didn't get so far as to type them up, but I know I wrote in detail how many stitches, how many rows, how many to cast off and cast on again, etc. And I know I referred to all of that information as I knit for my cousin.

Of course, I can write up the pattern by referring to the Thing I kept for myself, and test it again on the third copy I was knitting for another friend, but


Sorry. Just had to get that out there. And also:

My apologies for the delay in posting Free Holiday Knit #2. It's fast though - you can do it in a lazy evening or two - so perhaps it's not such a disaster for anyone but me.

On the upside, I do have some consolations coming up today:

going out on an exciting shopping expedition
poring over the new knitting books I ordered (Knitter's Book of Wool!!) that will almost certainly show up before 5
cutting out a custom mitten pattern, which I did break down and make last night.

It's going to be a productive weekend, even if part of it is spent recreating a pattern from scratch.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


I wrote up patterns yesterday and thought about mittens.

Not just any mittens. Not even knitted mittens!

And I have no time to make them until other more important things get finished. So I kept on writing up patterns and made my list of all the stuff I still have to work out how to make, and then write down what I've worked out, and also actually knit. And thought more about the mittens.

Bad Mary.

It wouldn't be so awful if I used the resized photocopies I made of the pattern for pre-felted wool mittens from my new Betz White book, Warm Fuzzies. I could probably just cut out the pieces and be done with the compulsive part of this obsession before I even stitch anything together.

The problem is - the longer I go without having time to cut them out, the more a little voice in my head is saying Make your own pattern! It would be so great to have the palm all in one piece!
When really the Betz White pattern is completely awesome and irresistible and READY MADE.

Also a problem: my sewing machine, a lovely 1940s Singer that has served me well for about 18 years, mainly because I have been willing to settle for stitching forward and backward and not much more.

I know I have to open it up again because I have a whole mess of sewing to do in the next two weeks. But I don't want to. I want to sit in my armchair and listen to classical music and handstitch. I can't do that with the projects I'm supposed to be doing, because they are too big. I can't do it with the Betz White pattern, I don't think, because I'm guaranteed to mess up the seam allowance. But I could do it with the mitten idea that's poking a stick at me and saying C'mon! It'll be fun!

It would be fun. I'd probably wreck a lot of the wool I felted while I figure out how to make my idea work, though, and that would be ever so much less so, and anyway -

Oh dear. I'm going to have to push something off the to-do list and just get this out of my system, aren't I.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Desktop needle storage

I've been meaning for some time to share photographs of my desktop needle storage. And by 'desktop', I mean the sizes of needles I am most likely to use for swatching or small project - the rest of my collection lives in the basement.

You know how sometimes you set something up to help you be very very organized and a month later it's a complete trash heap? Well, not this time!

For the tall needles, I have the ubiquitous vase, of course: a three sided one that lets my 12" ruler stand flat at the side. It's the double points that please me so much, tucked into a little paper birthday bag sent me by my friend Susan one Christmas.

Longtime readers may recall the needle pockets I made a while back, and that's the backbone of this system: I have one for every size up to 3.25mm, and every dpn in that size regardless of material goes into it - the larger needles, as with Brittany Birch and Lantern Moon, came on cards of their own. I have occasionally been reduced to cobbling together a set from mixed materials, and it's nice not to have to go fussing through separate storage areas for them.

Also nice is the fact that I made the needle pockets just narrow enough to fit into the birthday bag, sort of like I'd planned it, which I absolutely didn't. Ha!

Here are my favourite parts up close - some pockets filled with yummy needles plus a conveniently sized crochet hook, and a needle gauge/5" ruler I picked up at a fabric store.

(A fabric store that, incidentally, has the tiniest imaginable scrap of hanging display space for knitting materials, among which are the best tools I own. This gauge/ruler doesn't just have the sizing holes to figure out the needles you've got - it gives you metric, American, and Imperial sizing! Since I have needles labeled all three ways, I've come to depend on it in a big way. I think it's by TailorForm or possibly Unique, if you're looking for the same kind.)

From the side you can see how many needles I've been able to fit in here, and how nicely my pens stay visible and accessible out there on the front. It's like a little card catalogue, really, and it makes me irrationally happy every time I use it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Another thing to love about knitting

I was delighted this weekend to come up with an ingenious pattern that, in just one size, meets the following criteria:

fits adults and children

is hugely eye-catching and swishy

can be worn many different ways

is both warm and colourful

costs as little as $6.50 in luxury materials

can be knit in an evening

and fits neatly into this 4" x 7.5" tiny happy pencilcase-as-wrapping:

Technically I was making it to submit somewhere, but as I worked I realized it was also the perfect birthday present for a particularly glam friend, so she got Sample #1.

And that's what I love about knitting. I get to have fun and feel creative and make somebody happy all at the same time. Plus, now I have another option for last-minute gift knitting!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Fingerless Glove Cheaters - a free pattern(ish thing)

This cold weather business is getting serious now, and I'm past the point where I can knit on bus platforms or other outside-waiting-zones without handwarmers. To say nothing of the misery involved in typing at my chilly garretlike desk. Yeah, it warms up after I remember to close the kitchen window, but still.

Trouble is, I still don't have sufficient leisure to knit a pair of fingerless gloves!

Tsk tsk.

Fortunately, I benefited this weekend from somebody else's tragedy, and I'm happy to share my cheat with you. The secret to the time-savingness?

No knitting!

Step one: acquire a felted wool sweater, one with narrow sleeves.

In my case, this meant a ladies' size small lambswool cardi with the cutest pattern in front, found in the Salvation Army Thrift Store... already felted. I carved out a sympathetic moment from my greedy gloating - I myself have never thrown a wool sweater into the washer without meaning to, but it could still happen - and skipped home with it for scavenging.

Failing such luck, you can do-it-yourself felt a small sweater made from at least 90% wool, but make sure it's a softy!

Step two: cut off the sleeves from the bottom cuff, allowing a few inches for your wrist and then the length of your hand (I cut 9", but after I did the thumb I kinda wished I'd gone for 9.5".)

Step three: using a ripper or some scissors, open the side seam just enough for your thumb, around the place you expect your thumb would probably sit, no earlier than the spot where the seam begins to show increases. For my 9" long pair, I started my cut at 4" from the wrist end of the "glove", and snipped a 1.75" opening.

Now fold back the end to expose as much of your fingers as the weather and free movement allow. You can tack down the fold if you know you will only ever want this length; I've been folding mine up and down depending on what I'm doing, so I didn't.

Step five: Decorate the gloves if you feel like it. These sleeves were perfect for my needs just as they were... but I bet my next pair will have tons of buttons and needlefelting and embroidery all over the place.

There you have it: a pattern whose directions take longer to read than the project does to complete! And frees you up to knit in cold conditions. Or, you know, eat ice cream.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sock on

... just when I thought I was sock-free for ten minutes, this turned up in the mailbox:

This is the latest Knitterly Things sock club entry, aka my first go at a solid from the club, and it's been talking from the moment I unwrapped it.

It's saying, "Monkey socks!"

(And I think I might be listening.)

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Warm toes

I finished the socks!

And here's what I did wrong:

(apart from messing up the lace pattern that trails down the foot, looking stunning throughout, by one stitch precisely, every time I ripped back and tried to line it up right - yay inexperience with socks of any kind let alone flap and gusset, grrrr - such that I finally decided to leave it out altogether since it is freezing out now anyway.)

(at which point I thanked the weather for turning so I could justify giving up that particularly nice detail.)

Deep breath:

I didn't check my gauge.

Oh, I checked that I was getting the right stitches per inch. I just didn't check that I was getting the right number of inches for my foot. Even though I know my foot is oddly narrow.

So the heel and ankle are a little on the floopy side, while the foot is snug, that being the point at which I discovered the problem.

You can kind of see the problem in profile - the way the gusset comes all the way down as I kept on decreasing, and how much narrower the foot is than the ankle.

It doesn't look as though the heel floopiness is sufficient to surge out of the back of my shoes though, so I have decided to ignore this and just make a few notes for the next time I make these socks.

And I will make them again, if I make socks at all - and we know the likelihood of that (astronomically high) - because it is such a nice pattern*, and the yarn! oh my goodness, the yarn. Unbelievably soft and lustrous.

* this is a Ravelry link, which is probably going to be depressing for anybody non-Ravelly who wants to see the details. e-mail if if you are that person and I'll find out what I can for you!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Big news

Great yarn in the mailbox is big news to me, but this is bigger even than that.

Did you see that linky thing there? Did you click on it? Did you scroll down to see the smiling girl in the asparagus-coloured hat?

Okay then, try this one.

Amazing but true: out of a whole lotta hats, mine made it into the ten whose patterns will be included in the 1000 Fabulous Knit Hats book. There were other pictures, too, but my personal favourite was this:

Seriously, the moment I found these two skeins of great yarn in the mailbox (from A Piece of Vermont, drool) I thought of petit-fours and tea cakes and got straight to work. Isn't it nice for a hat that celebrates cake to make it into such mind-bogglingly awesome company?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Not finishing

I've been working with great feverishness on my September sock club socks and by golly - they're still not finished.

Since they need another two hours max, perhaps I'll be done today - and that means you have until tomorrow to guess what mistake I made on this pair (I made more than one, so you get some leeway.)

While I try to get these over my toes I'm plotting and scheming for a new improved Hugs, the details of which I will be able to provide a lot sooner if I can get the socks done, and working out another pattern idea.

To do these three things I am putting off writing up the second free holiday knit as well as designing the third, which is something I personally need to have right now, which is leading to


which is totally making me wonder why I don't have any chocolate in the the house.

Answer: because chocolate is something I would definitely finish.

Monday, October 5, 2009


Last winter I discovered I needed a vest and, since I couldn't find a pattern in the shape I needed, I started designing one of my own. But I got bogged down and still hadn't finished by June and finally frogged it, and now it's October.

And I'm cold.

And I appear to be knitting socks.

So I went to a big box store yesterday and pretty much immediately spotted as close to the exact vest I wanted - on sale no less! - as I was likely to find anywhere, which I took as a sign. It's mostly what I needed, in that it's grey and very long and slim and hides any excess chocolate consumption, and some of what I don't, in that it's 100% acrylic and seems to pick easily. And it came with the cheapest, ugliest buttons you ever saw in your life. (really, seeing them isn't enough - you have to touch them to know how bad the plastic was that went into them.)

Fortunately, I now have a cache of vintage buttons. Some of them are nicked up a bit, a lot because of all the vinegar baths they had to have after emerging from about 60 years in a smoky home, but some are still cute enough to go to work:

Here's a closeup of the original button:

And here are the replacements. I loved these buttons and was so upset with myself when I realized I'd damaged them - it's great to be getting them out of the box and using them in spite of my foolishness with all the vinegar.

Of course, I had the exact shade of red yarn in my stash too, for sewing them on. More to love about Knitterly Things!

Friday, October 2, 2009

October sock club harvest

This is a great thing about the first of the month, at the moment: I get to open up a new package from Biscotte et Cie and wait for an e-mail announcing this month's project (complete with pattern!)

This charming duo (100% superwash merino) came with a pattern for a perfectly adorable pair of mittens decorated with a colourful gecko. I'm pretty sure I won't be making them with these skeins, though, in part because my winter coats are
a/ blinding hot pink and
b/ charcoal grey
and also, because every time I look at the deep brownish wine of the main yarn, I think socks.

The gecko yarn would make pretty awesome heels or cuffs or toes or some combination thereof, don't you think? with due consideration given to its yardage.

What can I tell you - we're in the middle of a long run of grey rainy autumn days, and cold feet make compelling arguments!

ps my stained glass butterflies are from Helena via Etsy - even more colourful when hanging on the window. Soooo pretty.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


Yesterday's funeral trip was full of unexpected delights, including the sound of my longtime and very dear friend accepting the condolences of her late mother's friends and relatives by bursting suddenly into fluent German, which she did not do in our rooms in residence between our university studies and impromptu dance sessions.

I just love that she learned this language so well, in spite of going to an English-speaking school in an English-speaking town, and has continued to use it throughout her life.

Also, I arrived at the funeral home about 45 minutes early, which prompted a tour of the area and a sudden recollection that my favourite LYS, Stitch, has moved to a new location in Jordan, Ontario - which is exactly where I was. Not only that, but it wasn't on Highway 8, where I expected it to be, but right in Jordan Village, where I went first to see the little museum yard where Pioneer Day is held.

(I can't tell you how much I adore Pioneer Day in Jordan, with its distinctive aroma of open fire, soap cooking in a cauldron, and apple fritters sold in paper bags.)

(or how distressed I am at almost certainly having to miss it this year.)

Not only is the new shop right in Jordan Village - it's right across the street from the museum! So, great view from the inside looking out, and on the inside looking in, outstanding. The shop is also all about quilting and other needle arts, and the supplies are both extensive and inspiring. This new building (in an old house as before) is the perfect setting.

But here's the best part: Jordan Village is the most charming little place, full of historic bed and breakfasts and a view you wouldn't believe over the Escarpment, and pretty little shops and restaurants with world-class chefs and amazing local wines.

So if you are thinking about a yarny or quilty getaway, this is the place to be. Especially this weekend, since Pioneer Day is on Saturday, from 10-4. Best apple fritters ever!