Friday, July 31, 2009

Travel planning

I've got a lot of passenger-in-car time coming up through the rest of this summer, which begs the question: what knitting to bring?

I'm painfully aware that this is where I would be sensible to knit from large-scale patterns such as sweaters, designed by other people, with all the kinks already worked out. Knitting my first shawl, for example, would be a good plan - lots of work involved, but a compact skein, and a lace repeat that's not rocket science after the first few attempts. Even a sock project or three would be smart - it's not like I haven't accumulated enough sock yarn.

But I have to accept that I am me, and I will be knitting my own designs, and probably working out said designs as I go. Which means I don't have to bring just the yarn and the needles and the notes, but also reference material in case I decide to try a different approach to a particular segment of the garment.

Probably means I need to wind some skeins into balls, too.

And definitely, swatching and blocking - I don't want to have to stop halfway to where I'm going to wait for that step!

But I also don't want to be carting a lot of stuff I don't need, so I'll really need to plan this well (which should be interesting, given the state of my health, and What Happened Last Night.)

Oh, let's face it. None of this bodes well for any other packing I might have to do. I think I'll have to enlist somebody else to organize picnic fare, and reconcile myself to buying a new toothbrush and paste for anything overnighty.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Christmas present(s)

Some time ago Kathleen Taylor mentioned she knits small items all year and sets them aside for Christmas, so that when the holidays do loom up she has a good store of potentials.

Never being one to disregard such a good tip, I had resolved some time ago to do the same... only, of course, I got distracted. No more!

This arrived in the mail yesterday:

More Jacob/Alpaca goodness from Toots LeBlanc - the top one is called 'red' but is really a warm brown - that will be perfect for little items for up to a dozen people on my list (it's a long list and that's a drop in the bucket, but still, fun!)

And to make the little things really special, I think I will wrap quite a few of them in little zippered purses from tinyhappy.

I don't think any of these friends knit, but the bags are lovely and generously sized, and perfect for other things besides storing your socks in progress. That said, I did just order one that's big enough to store a hat in progress on my 10" Brittany Birch double-pointed needles.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Naturally, since I'm in the throes of fine-tuning another project, I spent some time yesterday playing with the lush-green yarn I bought from The Midnight Sheep.

I am partial to green. I have green eyes, and green things tend to draw attention to them, but also, green is just such a yummy colour, don't you think? Not to mention what a perfect understated tone it can be for such bright contrasts as pink:

The greens are much richer in life than they appear here, in the rain, under bit of projected roofline, but they are just as varied.

I'm not sure these little cables are right for the Thing I have in mind for this yarn, but then, the Thing keeps changing shape in my mind so who knows? What is certain is that the yarn itself is quite lovely - soft and springy and definitely warm and highly amenable to different treatments with a nice 220 yards of playtime in it - and the colours are divine.

I see there's another skein of it in the Sheep shop today, as well... h'mmm...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Last-Minute Lace Yoga Socks - a free pattern

These socks were born of the following ingredients:

a/ the discovery that my dear friend/trainer Carol's birthday was a few days away

b/ the fact that (in spite of her tight schedule) Carol had just made house calls to me for six weeks during a family crisis to help me keep it together

c/ my complete lack of shopping time and slightly larger amount of knitting time

d/ the beautiful pink Mirasol Nuna residing in my stash


e/ the memory of Carol mentioning her feet get cold during yoga.

I think they came together rather well, don't you?

They were crazy easy - I made them over two evenings in front of the TV but you could even do them on a bus.

And they wrap up so cute with a mini-size of Soak!

Download the .pdf of Last-Minute Lace Yoga Socks

Monday, July 27, 2009

In sickness and in health...

I was stuck in bed, sick, pretty much all of yesterday. How this played out:


Opening one seriously weakened hand to prop up Elizabeth Zimmerman's Knitter's Almanac.

Dozing off.

Scrabbling at the table beside the bed for a scrap of paper - carefully, so the pen sitting on it wouldn't roll off and I could grab both.

Regrouping, and making notes.

More reading until

Falling asleep again.

Waking up and trying to fix an image in my mind, then

Sketching a shape, then

Bribing somebody to bring me some yarn and a pair of needles so I could work out a stitch from the Almanac.

And then reading on.

Yep, I was working out a design for a hat. I have a bad feeling that with my dying breath, I will be muttering the sequence for the perfect lace repeat.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Summer breeze (yes, it's still about knitting)

I watched soooo many suspense movies yesterday but the biggest suspense of all was

Would the Special Project work out at last???

I had to remind myself partway through part one that it would shrink a little once blocked - more in width than in length, too, which was comforting, given that I got distracted by Humphrey Bogart and knit two or three fewer rounds than I intended.

In the midst of panicking, I checked the mailbox and found this:

I know I can't expect yarn in there every day but it was pretty nice to have it happen twice in one week. And how gorgeous are these colours - "Summer Breeze"? I do love how the sock club yarns come wrapped in matching tissue and accompanied by candy. The pink lemonade Jolly Rancher lolly was delicious, by the way.

After kicking up my heels about the new yarn I was very brave and finished part one, and started in on part two. My optimism was eventually confirmed when I chased down somebody of the correct size to try the thing on and tell me that yes, indeed, it was just the slightest bit roomy. I stayed up very, very late to finish part two while watching Still More Movies, and blocked both, and will be doing Embellishments this morning.

And then I will meet up with the friend to whom I have devoted the 7+ days through this project. I couldn't think of a nicer finish to a month's holiday, can you?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Toots LeBlanc to the rescue!

Yesterday - as I waffled again about whether there was even any point in going on with the yarn I was trying for the design I'm working out for a Something Special, I decided to check the mail.

And look what was in it!

I placed an order with Toots LeBlanc recently, after reading a ton of favourable yarn reviews over several months, and ended up substituting some medium grey Jacob/Alpaca DK for the Blue Leicester/Pygora I ordered originally, owing to a mixup about just how much medium grey was left in that. And -


As soon as I pulled it out of the envelope I knew: the medium grey I didn't know I wanted turns out to be the very yarn I had been waiting for!

Life lesson #4397.

And now that I've ordered more in more colours (hat hat hat!) for myself, I don't mind a bit saying that the Merino/Angora everybody raves about isn't the only droolable yarn in the shop - the Jacob/Alpaca is stupendously soft and supple, luscious to work with, and definitely something to treat yourself to.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Round and round we go


Another day, another go at the very same teeny tiny yet impossibly challenging project

(or maybe I just need more sleep?)

I got a whole test model done yesterday which revealed that I have to

a/ finetune a bit of shaping
b/ find a better means of increasing
c/ source a different yarn.

The yarn I keep coming back to is just too filmy for what I have in mind, I think. But oh dear, now that I have a finished if flawed piece, it is just so hard not to want about 16 garments in it. It's soft like angora but simple straightforward undyed 2-ply from the sheep of a girl I was in high school with, no less. She made a stunning Aran sweater with just a few skeins of it, and I so wish I could make it work for this little thing, though I did make it work for a little something else. Maybe what I need as well as more sleep is less being greedy.

I spent last evening watching a movie and trying for the 632nd time in another yarn, also lovely, and also I think not quite right for this project, or maybe it's perfect and I'm just comparing it too much to the other supersoft yarn, whose colour is slightly better suited to the recipient.

Or maybe I just need more sleep

(or a bigger stash.)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Books too

I had to return The Principles of Knitting to the library yesterday and am now back on the hold list, hoping to be poring over it come late October when doubtless I will once again, too late, be thinking SWEATERS.

Alleviating the loss: more knitting books from the shelf there, including

Easy Knitted Socks, which I hope will tide me over until Kathleen Taylor's must-have Big Book of Socks comes out in September

Beautiful Knitting Patterns, which I had out before and may enjoy more now that I've swatched so many more stitches (none of the stitches have names, which really throws me off for some sad reason)


Oh, Wow,

Knitting Little Luxuries, of which every page is as luscious as the herringbone bag on the front.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New yarn, new socks, and the design that wouldn't die

I think I forgot to say that I knit socks on my extended public transit journey last week (and also on the ride out to to see my mum on Saturday):

where I attracted the conversation of a crochet-and-sewing person. I do love how knitting prompts friendliness, though I can't take all the credit, because if I saw somebody knitting with this yarn I would want to get chatty too.

(Knitterly Things Vesper Sock; you're welcome.)

And speaking of all Things Knitterly, I decided to order some of Julia's Kid Mohair, as well as more heel and toe yarn in cherry red, and it all arrived at a critical moment last week:

I say critical, because this is what was sitting on my desk at the very moment I stopped to check the mailbox, having ripped back three times already (in the end I got halfway done the 5th attempt before realizing I would have to rip out AGAIN, and have started anew in another yarn, which is still not the cherry red, but will doubtless be so soon):

And yes, thank you for noticing - this is the same project I started and stopped in other yarn several times last week. I swear, designing knits is just like writing fiction over many drafts, only perhaps a little harder on the eyes.

Friday, July 17, 2009


Yesterday I thought about knitting but produced only a tiny swatch I didn't like the look of. I am mulling, evidently, and while I think I was struck with the inspiration stick overnight, I'm going to have to do more fussing to find out.

Meanwhile, I will share my latest artwork, titled 'How Cute Was My Clothesline'.

How many swatches get to dry on a basket surrounded by knitting books and a potting jar of freshly-wound skeins of deliciousness?

Happy weekend, all!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Newsflash: yarn invasion rocks quiet cul-de-sac

I wedged a desk into a tiny corner this spring so I'd have a dedicated place to write fiction, but over the past few weeks, it has Evolved, and yesterday - well, a picture tells a thousand words etc.:

The yarn in front is the smoky reds and greys of Pompeii and the green in behind is just plain delicious; both are due to be knitted up shortly. (A young friend took one look at the Pompeii and asked me to make fingerless gloves, and I give you three guesses* what I'm going to do with the green.)

I got this new haul from MidnightSheep, aka my resourceful artist friend Helena who has used a soft squishy 100% merino base for these colours. You might wish to check out her blog as she is not only creative and inspiring, but a very fine writer to boot!

* hat, hat hat.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

When in doubt, wind stuff

Yesterday I made the terrible discovery that the item I was on track to finish for a friend (one of those ones I never get to see but will be seeing today) to try on, and


it was, as he would say, One Too Many Rhinestones.

Too much texture, too much symbolism, too much backstory, too much variegation in the yarn. Not to mention pooling. And nothing - and I mean nothing, I ransacked it so I know - nothing whatever in my stash that would work better. Told you I still don't have enough stash!

So... what to do? I had nothing else on any needles, having been determined to get this one thing off my list. And everything else in my queue needs swatching and blocking before I can start. And I'd already dusted the top of the fan over the stove.

Answer: winding stashed skeins into balls. I did one I was thinking of for a hat...

and I was still all aimless, so I did another I want for socks even though it would be perfect for a hat...

and then another I can't think what to do with but love anyway...

and then I thought I really should do the matching heel and toe yarn (which suggests socks, but... a hat? or mitts? or a really awesome scarf?)

and then I admired my handiwork...

and then I dug out my two sets of 2.25 mm dpns and cast on two top-down socks because I am fresh out of travel knitting. And now I am mostly happy again, even though none of this got me any closer to the yarn I need for the project for my friend.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

O what a tangled web etc.

I find this hard to imagine, but some people actually like untangling knotted-up skeins of wool. I'll do it when I have to, but I'm motivated by the desire to get back to my project; these noble knitters will do it for chocolate, or the sheer satisfaction of beating down that tangled mess.

I tried to put myself in their shoes last night, when I looked down and discovered I had once again entered TangleTown:

It wasn't easy. I reminded myself of the tips I picked up last time I looked through the postings by Ravelry's detangling group*, such as:

Use a tiny crochet hook to get to the centre of a knot and tease it apart

Put mohair in the freezer before detangling

Tie a stitch marker to any loose ends you can find, so you can keep on finding them as you go

But luckily, none applied. I had tangled up such springy superwash, it would have been near impossible for me to make a really killer knot. It only took two hours of diligence to get me back to where I'd left off:

Only this time with a nice round ball. I don't know why, but the only knots I get come during the skein-winding stage or when I work with a centre-pull ball. Maybe I'm cursed, or maybe I should just take the hint.

Either way, today is going to be 100% knitting! with a side of enjoying letting somebody else do my exterior painting this year. Huz-zah.

* Link only works for members of Ravelry - if you're not a member, you just gotta sign up, it's awesome!

Monday, July 13, 2009

In which all is revealed

Well, not all - pretty much everything I'm knitting right now has to be under wraps - but I can show you what I was so frantically finishing for my friend's birthday last week. You can whip these up in two evenings, and the stitch is really satisfying but not so demanding as to require you to turn off the TV or ask chatty companions to go away.

If only I knew more people who do yoga and pilates and get cold feet:

Are you proud of me? I've knit one pair of socks in my life and now I've designed a respectable pair of my own (admittedly, leaving out the only tricky bits.)

Watch this space for the pattern, which I'll write up and post some time this week.


I'm sorry, I just had to share these further shots, having clearly outdone myself on the cute-wrapping front.

I tied a sample of Soak to the front, since my friend doesn't knit and won't have anything really special to wash them with. And now I'm thinking I need a few more samples to wrap up all my knit holiday presents with, because they look so pretty hanging from a ribbon! Apparently you can order an assorted set of 12 right from their site, by clicking "Order Online" on the list at the left border and choosing the mini-Soaks.

Can you believe I did all this for the woman who makes me do 20 seconds of Face Down Plank several times in a row twice a week? Me neither. But she also makes it possible for me to continue eating chocolate and ice cream without any hip- or knee- related penalties, and that's worth a whole lot more than lacy yoga socks and a pretty wrap-up, don't you think?

Friday, July 10, 2009

Knitting day

I've been writing up patterns for days now, having (finally) discovered that you can work out the stitch sequences on paper, then knit to confirm your theories and adjust as you go, thereby avoiding the crushing misery of writing up a pattern you've already knit - i.e., when the fun is gone.

But today: I knit. Turner Classic Movies is running a whole day of early 1930s movies and I have a nice comfy sofa on which to sit and enjoy them.

I never knit as fast watching a movie as when I'm listening to music or perched near a window. It's not just that I get interested in the story (at least, I always hope to be interested, but that doesn't always work out). The sad truth is, I need my glasses to see the screen, but I can't knit with my glasses on. Even now that I have trifocals. It is a sad choice to have to make, but today - an easy one.

Wish me luck, would you? I am aiming for a highly productive weekend so I can share my newest free pattern next week!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

In which I succumb to (more) temptation

I bought some more yarny things online yesterday. It's weird to say but - I still haven't got enough stash! Not enough solid colours, anyway. I have lots of self-striping, lots of subtle colour changes, and way too much truly variegated yarn

(seriously, does anybody have a good project idea for variegated yarn? because I haven't been able to find a single stitch that really suits that much colour, and boy oh boy have I been trying)

and hardly any solids.

Also I was getting dangerously low on exciting yarn-in-the-mail potential. That's really what online shopping is all about, isn't it? It's not just an investment in a project, but in future delights for the middle of an otherwise drab day.

I should stop now, but I just really really want to try something from Decadent Fibers, and I absolutely must join Biscotte et Cie's delicious and bargain-friendly sock club, too, so.... mmm. More shopping!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Can you guess what this is?

Is it...

a last-minute gift idea

practise for casting on at the end of a row

a fun, portable knit

a great stash-buster for yarns with silk in them

a reversible lace project

the next freebie here at Hugs


it's one half of Carol's birthday pressie and
a really cool way to keep your ankles from chafing in gladiator sandals

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Inside the toolbox

Remember the other day I was whining about my darning needle? Well, guess what I found at my local fabric store!

The needle on the left is the old too-long one. The new one is SO much better. I was so pleased with the good people at Unique for saving my knitting bacon, I bought some of their other tools:

(even though I finally figured out how to knit cables without a cable needle.)

The new tools reminded me of the eggcup I received at Easter. It's the perfect size for tiny stitch holders and tinier stitch markers, and so bright you can't lose it even on a messy shelf:

Lots of knitting to do today. I found out yesterday a dear friend's birthday is this week! I've designed something I hope will be fast and not use up more than the one ball of yarn that is perfect for the project, and if it works out, it (and not the horizontal stitch thing) will be the next freebie.

Monday, July 6, 2009

The joy of slip stitching

I did so much swatching this weekend! and a lot of it was slip stitch pattern repeats. I used to avoid those things because they can be so slow to grow and you have to fuss with putting the yarn in front or in back, but there are a few things they are awesome for, like:

texture on the surface of a garment

mixing colours on one row with just one strand of yarn

making a gap for threading ribbon through

And you can use them in all kinds of different ways, as shown in these free patterns from other designers:

Herringbone Ribbed Socks

Herringbone Slipped Stitch Hat

Tisserand (this is a Ravelry download, so if you're not yet a member, it's a super reason to get onto signing up)

Florenz Socks (ditto on the Ravelry download)

When I wasn't slipping stitches I was shifting some knitting things off my desk, and shifting other knitting things on, and writing up two patterns to knit later on the theory that if I can get the busy writing part done up front I will enjoy the knitting more. And

YES, I did wind the new sock yarn into a ball and swatched it and I am definitely making a hat out of it. And it will be stunning.

In virtuous news, I even did a tiny bit of knitting on my next deadline project. But not enough, so I will go finish that now. Happy Monday all!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Rewarding rewards

Yesterday I typed up patterns for about 6 hours straight before I noticed it was getting hard to see, so I took a break for lunch and some laundry. Then I got back to patterning and when I was finally done as much as my brain could manage, I went the mailbox and found this:

Words cannot describe how much I love this colourway. If I hadn't joined next season's club and I got this in the mail, I would still be crying today! And if just plain adoring it wasn't enough... check this out:

Yes, you're quite right - that's the solid I bought to heel and toe last month's sock yarn - a perfect match for the pink stripe in this month's. I wonder if I can squeeze four heels and four toes out of that little skein of pink? Or at least four heels?

Or... Oh, this is really evil and maybe even ill-advised (or are evil things automatically ill-advised? I suppose it's sort of part of the package?) but...

the grey in this mix matches my winter coat perfectly.

No, it's too ridiculous. It will make awesome socks, esp. since the red is such a great match for the belt I wear with my jeans, and also my grey cropped wool pants.

and since this is the Month of Hat-Patterning, I could shift this yarn straight up to the top of the queue.

And so adorable with my Mary Janes for the fall!

I could go and wind the skein right now. I'm on holiday after all - and my next deadline isn't till the 15th. And it's not like I'll be short of sock projects, having signed up for the summer club...

Yes, I'm really pleased I joined the Vesper Sock Yarn Club. But I'd better go get back to the hat patterning... got a lot of things to write down and swatch and, um, stuff. Ahem.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Crazy for cables

One of the unmentionable, not to say unspeakable, projects I want to get designing this month has cables on it, so I've been looking at lots of traditional forms and thinking about making up some clever shapes of my own.

I looooove cables, though I am wary now of using just any old style. I knit a sweater featured in the fall/winter 1985 issue of Vogue Knitting with cables that traveled over the entire front and back and... well, it squished together when I knit it and stretched out super wide when I blocked it. Totally unwearable. I tend to stick with formulas that fill no more than 18-24 stitches now.

That said, it is a very cheering thing for me to look at Jared Flood's beautiful cabled gloves (as well as his Druid Mittens, which are visible in his lineup of awesome patterns on the right column of his blog.) I think I would mess up the tension even on something that traveled such a narrow width as the back of my hand, but ohhhh. So lovely.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Horizontal knitting

I so need my own copy of The Principles of Knitting. As soon as I opened my library copy yesterday my eye fell randomly onto the solution to a problem I've been facing with a little project I want to get started on this very week.

And that solution is: horizontal knitting!

Here's how it works, if I understand it correctly, and I think we all know by now it's entirely possible I do not:

First, on a wrong side row, purl each stitch under (instead of the usual thing you do with the yarn when you're purling, wrap the yarn underneath the needle and up, before sliding it off.)

Then, on the right side row, work a turned bar increase (slip the next stitch onto the right needle as if to knit - which will untwist the twist you put in on the purl row - then put the tip of the left needle into the closer side of the stitch you just slipped and knit into its farther side without taking it off the needle, then knit into the nearer side of that same stitch, aka knit into the front and back of the stitch.) Then put the left needle into the stitch you've been fussing with on the right side, and slip it back onto said left needle. Finally, knit into the farther side of the second stitch on the left needle, then into the far side of the first stitch on that same needle, before discarding both.

What you get is a nice horizontal line that looks exactly like knit stitches crossing your stocking stitch base. And if it works for me, you'll see a sample of it here soon, as the project I want it for is the next freebie, heh heh heh.