Monday, August 31, 2009

Giving up on gauge

In my Past Knitting Life, I never ever knit gauge swatches, and I messed up on a lot of patterns because of it.

In my Current Knitting Life, I have learned loyalty to the gauge swatch.


- cue ominous music -

this weekend, I knit several items for which I had diligently produced blocked gauge swatches (measuring both before and after to document shrinkage or stretch ratios) and

they all did something different than the swatch!

And by 'something different', I mean something Very Very Bad. I actually had to put one woolen thing into the dryer to try to shrink it again. And it wasn't superwash, folks. (Amazingly, it shrank to near-perfect sizing without a hint of felting. I attribute this to my having my St. Christopher in my pocket at the time.)

So I'm kinda rethinking the old slave-to-the-swatch thing. And also the block-the-garment thing. I'll still do it because I know it's the right thing, but I will have more than a few grains of salt handy. Which, now that I think of it, might also impact the blocking process. H'mmmmm.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Alpaca goodness


or roving (from a charming alpaca called Vixen)?

Let's just say you don't want to go slicing up this loaf and slapping butter on it.

I bought rather a lot of alpaca yarn at Alpaca Acres as well, and I've already wound one skein into a ball because it was so touchable, even though I am in deadline city again.

Top right corner: 320 yards of 2-ply from Madison, the mother of the baby alpaca I saw being born this week. Three guesses why I couldn't leave the shop without this particular skein!

Clockwise down to the middle: 350 yards of 2-ply lace from Dusty. This is the skein I've already wound and knit a swatch for. It is... unbeLIEVably soft. I am blinking trying to think of a better definition but unbelievable sums it up so perfectly, I'll leave it be. If you're looking for soft, this is the yarn you want.

Ohhh, another favourite: 340 yards of 2-ply black lace from Tia with just 1% silk added. Even that tiny bit adds a sheen! This one is gorgeous and I have evil plans for it, which puts us at three for three so far.

Make that four for four, with the one on the bottom left. This one is Lopi! from Bently, who is another absolute softy. It's just 100 yards but that's plenty for the design that popped into my head the moment I reached out and touched it in Ann's shop. I cannot wait to get going on it.

Left middle: a 340 yard collaboration between Jeni and Jesse. I don't actually know yet what I'm doing with this one but I take that as a blessing, since I can't really knit five projects at once.

Or can I? The top left corner is the 550 yards of fingering from Emy that I am thinking is perfect for a shawl. I don't have a shawl because I don't expect I'd ever wear one, but there is something compelling about all the gorgeous finished and blocked shawls everybody posts droolable pictures of. Maybe I was just holding out for this gorgeous pillow of a skein?

One thing I do know: this is going to be a very knitty weekend.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A big box of yarn

Just when I was getting tired of reorganizing my tiny office cubby yesterday and wondering whether I might possibly be due to receive yarn in the mail, this arrived:

I won't tell you what I'm going to do with it, but I will tell you this: if you can think of no other reason to treat yourself to something from Decadent Fibers, consider the yardage.

The Creme Brulee and the Cookie Dough each give you 490 yards in one custom-dyed skein. True, it's a lot of winding, but it also means there's no need even to think of alternating balls of yarn to avoid pooling. Unless you're making a sweater, in which case it's just easier to do. So easy, in fact, that... h'mmm... I wonder... yeah, I might think about tossing my original idea and giving that a try.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An alpaca is born!

Yesterday I finally got out to Alpaca Acres, which was even more exciting than expected.

As Ann Clayburn took me out to the field she mentioned that one of the alpacas was likely to give birth that day. Well, darned if I didn't see something suspicious protruding from said alpaca as Ann pointed her out. Hey, I saw our school hamster have babies back in grade 4, so I knew what to look for. Things were definitely underway.

Ann asked if I'd like to stay to watch and I said YES PLEASE! because how often do you get to see the miracle of birth? and though I didn't document Madison's hard work having her new baby boy, I did take pictures of the two of them having some special time together in their own pen afterward.

Apparently alpacas are born with a full coat, but they're so soggy at first it's hard to believe.

I know that last shot makes it look like the little guy didn't make it, but really, he's just resting. He worked hard too!

We left to look at yarn* and when we came back, Baby Boy was mostly dry and looked far more comfortable in the world than you'd expect from somebody less than an hour old.

I was glad to catch this little nuzzle.

He tried to get up a few times, like this:

and fell down just as many:

Still, he seemed pretty happy to be here, and I was so happy to watch him arrive.

* Yarn!!!!!

Of course, I bought lots. But I'll have to tell you all about that tomorrow, because it's too rainy this morning to get any good photographs. Suffice it to say that Ann and Dan's animals produce beyond-fabulous fiber, and They Do Mail Order. Ann and Dan, that is, not the animals. If I'm reading Evelyn Clark's Swallowtail Shawl directions correctly, you (by which I also mean I) can make a version in creamy white fingering spun from Emy's fiber for a mere $20. So what are you waiting for?

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Resistance may or may not be futile

Yesterday I took a little time to plan more of my field trip to the Alpaca Farm (seriously, if you haven't checked out this link yet, do it - you can't imagine how adorably photogenic those alpacas are!!)

and discovered a Spinrite outlet less than an hour from it.

Spinrite, as in, Patons, Bernat, Phentex, and Sugar n' Cream.

I wavered, people. I did. But you know... the extra time would cost me a stop in Stratford at the seriously gorgeous chocolate shop Rheo Thompson.

Um, does this mean I love chocolate even more than yarn?

Monday, August 24, 2009


I haven't knit much the last few days, in spite of loads of car time. Either the scenery has been too nice, or the responsibilities too varied, or the conversation too distracting.

(as in, I had to rip back all the work I did on the latest Stealth Project while chatting with a unexpectedly-run-into cousin on Saturday, when I realized I had forgotten to do a Critical Thing the moment we sat down to catch up.)

(and then ripped back all the work I'd done to that point, when I realized it was a dog's breakfast anyway.)

And I won't knit today either! unless a miracle happens.

But I will be thinking about knitting and that's really the worst, isn't it. My fingers will be positively itching by noon.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Being crafty in 1812

For some reason, this has been the summer of forts from the War of 1812, and Fort Erie was on yesterday's agenda. If you only have time for one fort, I'd recommend this one - the display here was more moving and vivid than the others I've seen, which is saying something. Plus, ghosts!

I'm interested in everything about the way people lived in other times, but I'm always especially on the lookout for information about women and the work they did, and at this stop I learned a lot. Picture this, if you will:

Out of 100 British soldiers, 6 would be allowed to bring their wives and children to be with them in Canada - though of course, they would be evacuated from the Fort in times of fighting. These 6 women would be paid to do the sewing and mending and laundry for their own husbands plus the other 94 men.

They were granted a little privacy by way of a blanket around the bed they shared with their husbands, but they would still be sleeping in a room that housed about 60 people.

Their children - there might be anywhere from 10 to 30 of them - would sleep wherever they could find space.

I read that sheep were kept at the Fort, so I asked a gentleman about the spinning the women did after I found this display in the other half of the barracks:

He said that not only did they spin their own wool - they spun flax to make linen. No wonder we found so many children's toys on display... how else could they have found the time to get the work done?

ps: this trip was a substitute for the Alpaca Farm trip that got rained out. Click here to read the surprising way the day ended.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Rain, rain, etc.

Far be it from me to complain about rain when there are people crying out for it, but honestly! The one day I was looking forward to this week

(aka trip to Alpaca Farm)

(aka excuse to buy Alpaca Yarn)

and it's due to thundstorm all day. All over the province.

It's not a total disaster since there are two or three days next week when I can go. Still... dang.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Colour candy

A couple of weeks ago on a driving holiday the car I was in had to stop for a lift bridge and gave me a long drink of this view:

I love the way the blue of the door stands out from the greys of the stone, don't you? Which is why it was nice for me last night to notice that the colour of the yarn I'm using for today's crisis deadline knitting is a blend of the two.

And now, back to work. Or should I say, AAGGGGHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!

Monday, August 17, 2009

In the pink

My mother reached an impressive age last week - so impressive that when she says she doesn't need a thing, she really doesn't. Except possibly an eyeglass case so bright she can't fail to find it whenever she wants to do some reading or crocheting.

This is good news: around Thursday at suppertime I glanced at the calendar and realized the exceptionally beautiful things I had bought online for her weren't going to arrive before I saw her for lunch on Saturday, because for some reason I never get mail on a fine Friday in summer, and then get rather a lot the following Monday. H'mmmmm.

Fortunately, I had a lead on a nice ergonomic crochet hook in a size she uses a lot, and my stash yielded some nice felting wool and some reasonably coordinate-y sock yarn. Bonus: the felting sized it down perfectly on the first try, even though I didn't have time to test a swatch while scrawling out a pattern on the back of the notes for another project-in-process.

I'm not entirely certain about the swirls, but they were fun to do, and she liked them. I added a pocket at the back to hold a crochet hook or a pen.

I'm thinking about another little variation on the closure that might be cool, too. Either way, I'll get the pattern up here in the next week or two, depending on how the current crisis knitting goes. Good wishes welcome on that front, by the way!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Lantern Moon swoon

I'm in the middle of another rush job (aka last-minute birthday present) that required a frantic trip last night to an LYS I sourced through KnitMap. Rave reviews, and not impossibly distant, and they had one left of the very thing I needed.

In fact, the only reason Creative Yarns was open late enough for me to rush in was that it was Stitch n' Bitch night, and OH how I wished I could stay, because it looked so cosy around the sofas and everybody was so friendly. While the ladies worked away with needles and a spinning wheel (drool), I poked around and marveled generally at yarns I'd never seen before and now can't remember the names of.

And then I spotted a basket of half-price Lantern Moon needles.

How could I say no? And having gone that far, how could I resist the summer issue of Piecework? I love the simplicity of this magazine and the unusual worlds to which it introduces me. And those wristlets (more drool).

But the other big story is those River John needles I bought last week. I used them for the current last-minute present (I'll post the free pattern next week) and WOWZA. They are the lightest, smoothest, most perfectly-tipped needles I have ever used. I want more. Even though I just covered about every remaining needle requirement with this new lot.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Hooray for library fines!

Yesterday I finally got into the library to renew my card and take care of the fines for some books I pushed through the night drop slot on my way out of town - a few days late, because of my being so sick last month. And while I was there, naturally I had to check out the knitting section to see whether there was anything new to me on the shelves. Reversible Two-Colour Knitting caught my eye and I decided to borrow it.


When the librarian got to that particular volume she said, "Oh, this one's been withdrawn." And I was pretty tired, so it took me a minute to realize what that meant, but when I did I asked, "Does that mean I can just buy it?"

"Sure," my supremely wonderful librarian said. "It'd be a dollar."

"Great", I said, mentally clicking my heels in the air for having the foresight to accumulate overdue fines and bring cash along to the library, something I almost never do.

When I got home I checked and - yep, it's hard to come by, and that's a shame. I'm not doing anything in two colours at the moment, but when I do I'll be leaning heavily on this baby.

Now if only I had such luck with The Principles of Knitting... because I spent the rest of yesterday hunting up notes on how to make the biggest, roundest eyelet without any luck at all and I know for a fact that information is tucked into its pages. Oh well, it's my turn again in another two months or so.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Can't talk, knitting

I got the yarn! (you have to scroll to the bottom, but the reference is there.)

I can't believe I got the yarn. I seriously had come this close to giving up.

And now I have to knit swatches and work out some design details.

You'd think, what with my being a former one-project-till-it's-finished girl, I would have enjoyed knitting more when I actually got to complete projects and show them off, wouldn't you? but oddly enough, no.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Shopping at a pioneer village

One cannot love yarn and visit a pioneer wool mill without hunting for wool in the gift shop. And I found some, tucked away in a basket in a corner:

It was embarrassingly inexpensive... $5 Canadian for 100g, as I recall. I have no idea what I will do with these two skeins, though 'felted purse' calls out every time I look at them. I think the yarn is a bit too scratchy for a hat (though who knows - everything seems to come out softer when I block with Soak) and I don't have a lot of flexibility for gauge swatching with such a small amount of yardage.

In another basket, I found knitting needles, and decided to buy this set of 4mm dpns:

Later, when I went to visit the River John Needle Company site, I discovered that they also make a rather fascinating straight needle designed for alternating between skeins of hand-dyed yarns - the swing needle.

I've actually avoided garments that would require several skeins of hand-dyed yarns because I'm too lazy to sort out the colour pooling issue, so I may have to give these needles some closer attention.

But first, I need to find some yarn. And that is not sarcasm: I have two days to get a particular type of yarn inside these four walls, and I have no idea where to get it. Wish me luck!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Visiting a pioneer woollen mill

Every so often I get a hankering to visit a pioneer village. This one - Upper Canada Village just south of Ottawa, Ontario - has a wool mill, as announced by the pile of unprocessed wool just as you enter the building:

It's washed in a series of three basins to clear out some of the dirt and hay bits. This is the first soak:

Then it goes upstairs. When you go up, you may be given a small piece of pencil roving to keep, and if you are me, you will keep it in your pocket to bring out and hold onto for the next few days. It's amazingly comforting to the touch.

Because the process pioneers used to dye wool was toxic, the wool is sent out for dyeing.

Then the spinning begins:

I kinda missed my chance to ask questions but I think this step, in the same space on the floor immediately below, may be related to the process.

You can see how some of the finished yarn is woven:

Downstairs, there are more finished yarns ready to be put to work.

A lot of the yarn goes into weaving these blankets. There is a matching trio of stripes on the other end of the piece.

Gorgeous, yes? And worth every penny of the $300 Canadian that they cost in the gift shop - but I resisted, because my visit was in August. Heaven help me if I go back in January!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Weekend frolics

Some fun places to spend weekend downtime when not actually knitting:

Knitting History, which includes patterns and links to other historical sites.

Vintage Purls, which features - oh my - instructions for 1940s and 50s patterns whose copyright has expired. It's got me thinking about knitting placemats, though, which means its collection is Highly Dangerous.
has a page sharing stitches and patterns from Home Work (1891), and hosts the KnitWiki.

The Victoria and Albert Museum (which really is the most lovely place) has its own knitting pages as well...

including one that led me to The Hook and The Book, which looks at the history of both knitting and crochet in the U.S. My fave!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Field trip

Look what's within comfortable day-trip distance from my house:

Alpaca Acres!

Now, most people go to Stratford, Ontario for the Theatre. But I like to go for the pretty houses and, um,

okay, it's about the chocolate. I don't think it gets much better than Rheo Thompson, unless you throw in a farm trip to buy alpaca yarn after visiting the shop. Mmmm, alpaca.

I'm definitely making this trip this month, so stay tuned for pictures!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Swatches with benefits

Here's the gauge swatch I settled on for the green wool from the Midnight Sheep.

LOVE the colour shifts.

I swatched a lot of stitches for the Thing I'm going to make with this, and none of those swatches made the shape I was going for. But one in particular put an idea in my head for its perfect application, which means I have another Thing to add to my list of Things to design.

I don't think I was ever this creative when I was focused only on writing fiction. Of course, I've never written less fiction, either... h'mmm.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Knitting graffiti

Have you read Wikipedia's writeup on knitting? I enjoyed the range of it enormously (as well as the giant-sized loops laid out for photographic purposes.)

But I was particularly interested in the mention of yarn bombing. Who wouldn't be, after looking at this bus-in-a-cardi? Apparently there is a book coming out on the subject in the fall, as well.

I did read about this sort of thing once before by way of the Knit-O-Matic site, at the Wychwood Beautification Project, but it seemed to me then more of a community effort sort of thing.

Now I'm thinking H'mmmm. That very ugly post for the No Parking sign out front would look pretty awesome in the grey/black/white themes I'm using in the garden.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Summer reading

I have been blessed with a writing mentor who supports my knitting as art. Can you imagine? Knitting with impunity! Even though it may mean months without writing a word! Except that of course I do write because I can't stop myself anyway. Writing is like that.

He sent me this lovely book last week - very similar to the KnitLit series of which I have been a part - and I have been enjoying it enormously, in spite of every single essay I open it up to being an absolute tear-jerker.

Or maybe each piece is just itself, and the tears are me, being that happy to have a mentor who believes in me.