Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Haapsalu Shawl

oh. my. gosh.

My friend Merli at Apollo Publishing hoped I'd have my copy of The Haapsalu Shawl in time for New Year's and it CAME and it's so beautiful that when I opened up the parcel I was speechless!

(and honestly, it takes a lot for a girl like me to go speechless.)

It's so beautiful that as I opened the parcel to look at it the guy next to me said WOW. That is the most beautiful book I have ever seen.

(and let me tell you, this was not a knitty sort of guy.)

The cover design is beautiful and the photography is beautiful and the paper stock is beautiful.

But apart from all that: this is the most thorough stitch dictionary I own, and I have a few. It's got:


a stitch glossary with images so you understand how to make each individual stitch

clear instructions with diagrams for finishing and blocking

'Master's Advice' inserts throughout the book and

large, lovely photographs of Haapsalu residents wearing a shawl or scarf, with a quotation about what the town and/or garment means to her.

But is that that enough for this publisher? Not by half!

The book is oversized - 9.5" wide x 13" tall - and each stitch combination gets its own page. Complete with an impeccable photograph of the stitch above and a large, clear chart below.

It's a heavy book and given the size I don't know where I'm going to store it and it is in such perfect condition because it was wrapped so carefully for shipping that I'm afraid to just leave it lying around where it might get a dent on my watch and yet -

there is so much white on white on the cover, and such a generous amount of white space on each page, it feels as ethereal as the shawls themselves.

This is a great book, and I think you need it. You don't even have to order it directly from the publisher like I did, because the English translation is available at shops now too. Like, for example, Needle Arts Book Shop!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Now what?

I just looked at my queue to see what's coming up onto the needles next - and it could be anything.

True, I do have an 'obligation' list, but it consists of one shawl (fairly fast to make) and one hat (very fast to make), both already in progress.


I find myself frequently touching sock yarn, and in particular the beautiful blue I got from Midnight Sheep.

I have some more Precieux in a rich gorgeous red with which to make myself a really warm face-protecting hat.

I have some yarn earmarked for another really warm hat, too - a trio from Toots LeBlanc, Sally, and Jessie (lots of positive energy there!)

And then there's the rest of the stash.

But you know what? I want a sweater! Dangerous words, because I haven't knit a figure-flattering sweater since the 1980s, when 'flattering' meant 'giant bag'. So much work and then meh, is what happens when Mary Meets Sweater.

That said, I can't help looking at the new Elizabeth Zimmerman sweater ( scroll to The Green Sweater on the patterns-for-sale page). It's the romance of the story behind it that captures my imagination - how can you not be moved by the recreation of a much-loved pattern after its brilliant maker has gone? To say nothing of the fabulous photography by Jared Flood.

Must. Be. Realistic. It's a cropped cardi and nothing looks worse on me these days, never mind the draft. I need a long swingy shape - something like the gorgeous Nora's Sweater (that's a Ravelry link) on the cover of Winter 2009's Interweave Knits. In fact, Pam Powers' other patterns are pretty seriously yum, too.

Oh dear.

Maybe I should just work quietly away on the obligation list and leave these happy problems for another day?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

'Kathleen' - an evening bag pattern

Last July, I spent a LOT of time watching old movies and working on this pattern, which has just hit the internet via KnitNet magazine:

It's knit with shiny, smooth crochet cotton and it's named for Kathleen Taylor, who encouraged me to try my hand at designing.

Thanks Kathi!

Monday, December 28, 2009

I finished the shawl!

Is the world still turning?

I thought I would never get through it! and in fact, if I hadn't had to stay home sick from Christmas Dinner, it would be on the needles even now. But I did and it's done

and Lannie loved it

and now I am FREEEEEE

to knit another one for Carol. Thankfully, hers is in heavier yarn, and I should be able to finish it before the weather is too warm to wear it. Knock wood.

Yarn update: this one was knit with just under one skein of Arial from Twisted Fiber Art, in 'Jaunty'.

Friday, December 25, 2009

A very Turbo Christmas

Just popping in to wish everybody a Merry Christmas (or a really splendid Friday)!

Three guesses which thing in the photograph above provides the greatest comfort in the face of a very much worse cold. Having a bad cold isn't so bad in itself, but having it when one is meant to be spending Christmas with a group of really nice people, some of whom are immune-suppressed and facing more than enough health challenges already thank you very much - well, that means just one thing:

Staying at home with a box of tissues for company.

On the other hand, one could also say that I now have five bonus hours in which to knit the last two lingering presents


if I finish them, I could use any of these dreamy new needles (the perfect length for hats, did you notice?) to start a hat I've been wanting to make.

One might also note that TCM is running a string of movies I don't hate, but won't be tempted to watch too closely while I knit, either. All in all, kind of a fabulous agenda, don't you think?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

and miles to go before I get festive

It's very pretty here this afternoon, perfect weather for a Christmas eve: grey skies, softly falling snow. You can see some here on the table around the kitchen scale:

14 grams, people. I still have to knit 14 grams' worth of yarn to knit into the shawl I'm giving away in three days. And I'm sick as can be with a cold, again. It's chicken soup to the rescue, and if that doesn't work fast I won't even get to church tonight.

At least the mittens are done... and if I do get stuck alone at home, I get bonus knitting time. Gotta love the silver linings, dontcha?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Unbelievably pretty needles

I want everything on this website. Seriously! Gorgeous needles, shawl pins, spindles I will never use but love the look of, glamour crochet hooks (and I don't even crochet)... good thing I'm not in the market for any of it. But you might be, right?

Or maybe I'm just tormenting you too, in which case, um - Sorry!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Knit One, Embellish Too

I mentioned this book last winter when I first bought it, but with gift-giving season looming, I just have to recommend it again.

It has a lot going for it - Cosette Cornelius-Bates writes in such a friendly and knowledgeable way it makes a nice read on its own, and it does have a lot of patterns in it - but there is one thing I especially appreciate.

The section at the front that explains basic techniques.

Seriously. The last couple of days I've needed to do a lot of blanket stitch to finish off some Christmas presents, and that's a stitch I've managed to escape for lo these many years - as in, my entire life. Nor did I have a embroidery-mad friend anywhere within reach. Yes, I could have jumped over to YouTube to look for a tutorial, but that would have interfered with watching Howl's Moving Castle. I needed a book.

It turns out I had three books in the house that explain blanket and other embroidery stitches: Knit One, Embellish Too is the only one that made sense of it for me.

And this, my friends, is why I think somebody in your life needs a copy of it. Maybe even you!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Revisiting the plan

The best-laid plans go awry so it's no surprise my slap and dash ones for holiday knitting have gone to the wall. They were perfect - as long as nothing else whatsoever went wrong.

And it has. Nothing fun like a nice lengthy cold that knocks you flat and tucks you up with tea and a nice battered old book, either:

but rather the kind that sends you off in shifts (the time-punch kind, not the dresses) to stay with an injured friend and make her chicken soup and things.

Which is still sort of fun if you are the person making the soup and knitting en route.

Does cut into a girl's blogging time though! So I'll turn up as I can and if there's nothing new and exciting over here, you may find me at my Procrastination Diary. I've had lots of exciting felted mitten news there, even if it is sewing-related instead of knitty.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Shawl countdown

Okay, so here we are pretty much on Day 1 of the urgent shawl project I have six days to complete. I did a tiny bit yesterday but it hardly counts, because it seems I still have 127 grams left on the ball:

So today, I am blogging from the sofa, where I am parked in front of a really, um, interesting movie version of Jason and the Argonauts with special effects that look as though they inspired Robot Chicken and woolly hats on some of the actors that - wow.

Let's just say it's a laugh a minute and I should probably turn off the TV if I'm going to get any knitting done.

Monday, December 14, 2009

In which panic descends

Two weeks to go -

except that really the gift countdown is set to one week for one important person and
one day for two more.

One of those very urgent two gifts is ready to go, and the other needs another 40 minutes or so, but the one week deadline is panic-inducing.

Here is what happened: I wasn't watching the calendar and was working away happily on two things I'm not gifting until December 27th. Then on Friday, I realized I had to have a Lazy Day Lace Shawl ready to give on Monday the 21st. By which I mean, not just finished but blocked and dried. So really, it has to be done by about 8pm on Sunday the 20th.

Technically, this worked out to a very do-able three hours' knitting a day when I started it on Saturday, but on Sunday night I realized I had made a serious and highly noticeable error in row 12.


Which I then continued making for another 5 rows.

How this is possible - it's my own design, and I've knit this particular lace stitch on a near-daily basis since September - I don't know, but I did it. And I had to rip it all out, and today I will have to start again, except that I can't until I've finished Urgent Gifts #1 and 2, and then I will have to pause again midweek to do Marginally Less Urgent Gifts #3 and 4, scheduled for delivery on Friday.

And that, my friends, is where the wrench is positioned.

Because one of those two is ready, and the other an irretrievable disaster unless my iron and muslin-for-steaming turn out to have magical powers, and I almost certainly have to think of something else to give in its place. Candy Wrapper Scarflet springs to mind - I can do it and block it in an evening - but do I go with another teal, or with the pale pink in my stash, neither of which is ideal for this particular person?

Of course I can always get around the worst of the problem by presenting the other half of the shawl gift with a promissory note for the rest in a week or two, but it's so awful, isn't it, to be knitting for Christmas well past New Year's?


I know every other crafty person is in much the same overextended boat though, and that's something.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Express (holiday) knitting

Last night I gave in to the pressure to pull together a wishlist of stuff people could give me for Christmas, something I normally avoid because even the sort of people who consistently supply wishlists that look like this:


are underwhelmed by my honest and sincere wishlist of:


So I have to think things up, and not knitting stuff either.

I mean, as long as I go on indulging myself every time I fall in love with a yarn or a book or a needle, there's no point in my putting that on the list. Unless it's going to be made use of by a fellow knitter who will know a magical thing when s/he sees it, and I haven't managed to indoctrinate any of the people on my gifting list (yet.)

But I did consider putting an Addi Express at the top of my wishes. Even at $200 (but on sale here!) it wouldn't take long for you to make your money back and then some in time saved - and just think of the sweaters you could make for people in a fraction of the time next holiday season.

Really I want an especially beautiful swift, which I won't ask for because I don't have a place to keep it. And I won't ask for socks either, or chocolate. Everybody already knows I like that.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

A breath of fresh air

Or do I mean a breath of spring air? That's what I am appreciating today, being officially sick of winter before it officially begins.

Outside it's all lumps of ice with a thin dusting of parched snow over it, cold dry air, and more emaciated flakes coming down. I like a big wet snow you can build with - that's the kind that brings warm (for winter) air along for the ride.

In New Zealand on the other hand, it's spring, or maybe early summer? which may explain why this hand-dyed, hand-spun yarn from my friend Sally is so very cheerful and happy even in the dim grey light of my yard:

It's Corriedale, which The Knitter's Book of Wool says is best for outerwear, but in Sally's hands it's soft enough for me to think about doing as a next-to-skin hat with a forehead. And given how cold it is outside right now, that might just be its destiny!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Merry Christmas to me

It seems like just last week I zipped into the Knitterly Things shop mere moments after it had been updated and snagged, finally! a skein of the one this-season-only sock yarn I have been unable to forget (aka The Holly and the Ivy.)

And now it's arrived:

On the First Day Of Snow, and everything. Actually wet snow and rain, which is due to freeze overnight, and be followed by two more days of snow. Perfect weather for staying in and knitting if only I could.

But let's leave all that aside for now and look a little closer for swooning purposes:

Isn't it just beautiful? It makes me feel even happier in person than it did online.

And even though the dim light from outside as I took this picture makes it seem not true, I can't help noticing how perfectly it matches up with a semisolid from the Summer Club (Ivy League), and thinking about contrasting heels and toes.

You know, just in case I was thinking it was irresponsible to buy more sock yarn.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Eloquence - a free pattern for mittens and fingerless gloves

Something that may surprise you (or not) when you look at the ridiculous amount of knitting here is that I am a writer. But it is true.

It is also true that one of my teachers - Wayson Choy, someone I had already considered to be absolutely wonderful - has encouraged me to knit even at the expense of writing because it is important to go wherever your creativity leads you.

Well, here is where my creativity led me when I read Wayson's latest book, Not Yet: A Memoir of Living and Almost Dying.

I made these for him as a present - I so love when things like that actually fit, don't you?

This design is important to me for lots of reasons, but in knitting terms it is all about the thumb, which I redid about a million times before I settled on a gusset I liked. My technical editor tells me that this particular approach is unusual - and I am taking that as a compliment because it's so comfy.

The yarn choice gave me a lot of trouble too. I was swatching about the tenth hopeless attempt when my order from Toots LeBlanc & Co. turned up in the mailbox:

No matter how I tried to make do, Wayson's gloves needed to start with yarn that suggested it had seen animals fairly recently and hadn't had too much fussing over it since then. I had intended my much-coveted Jacob/Alpaca DK for something else, but when I saw it, I knew it was The One.

After that I had to put my sense of Wayson's approach to writing into words. One word, to be exact. One word that translated into Chinese in, ideally, two pictographs simple enough that even I could embroider them.

I spent a lot of time browsing through dictionaries before I was rewarded with this:

The pictograph on the left means 'mouth' and the one on the right means 'sprouting plant.'

When you put them together, they mean eloquence.

Isn't that beautiful? and it applies, I think, to artists in every conceivable medium, making an embroidered pair of these gloves perfect for anybody who works with their hands in a cold place.

Of course it must be said that if you don't embroider them, the thumb is reversible. And that makes it perfect for kids playing or snacking outside in cool weather, so I did a kids' size.

And then I thought, mittens are only a little bit more work to do - so I added instructions for that in all the kids' and adults' sizes.

I worked this particular cuff in Open Flame, an exclusive colourway from the Vesper Sock Club, for some extra zing. You gotta be in the club to get your hands on cuties like this! All Julia's sock colours are fabulous, though, and any bits of leftover sock yarn do just as well.

Knitting aside, I love this book. There is so much in it to relate to, and so much joy, inspiration, and hope. It is amazing enough to have such astonishing experiences and live to tell them, but to have Wayson's particular brand of eloquence too - that is something very special. Not Yet is, I think, a perfect gift.

(and so is a pair of Eloquence!)

Download .pdf of Eloquence

Monday, December 7, 2009


I've been working on my qiviut hat whenever I'm not doing this year's holiday sewing, and if it weren't for said sewing it would be finished now.

I just can't put it down.

It's like knitting clouds previously located in heaven.

Even with the halo it develops as you work with it, you can still see the underlying stitches.

Best of all: it looks like I can make the whole thing in less than 1 22g cake, leaving me a second skein to use for myself.

This is lucky since Cottage Craft Angora, from whom I bought the two skeins (plus some qiviut/merino blend) is currently sold out of it.

Worst of all: the price of qiviut is much, much higher than when I bought mine. $90 for 28 grams in one place! So it may be some time before I can get more... and, um,


Meanwhile, you can still read lots of qiviuty news at Cottage Craft Angora's Qiviut Blog!

Like, the fact that somebody actually commissioned (and got) a king sized qiviut bed cover. Can you imagine? I hope its new owners don't have a cat, because mine would have had that thing in shreds on the first day.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Time to face facts:

It's December 4th.

In 20 days, I will be past the point of knitting anything for anybody.

It takes me an average of 30 days to come up with a pair of socks, to say nothing of the other 5 or 6 things I'm supposed to be knitting for presents.

I can't knit socks for my likely-to-enjoy-handknit-socks friend.

I can however substitute a hat out of qiviut:

Let's just hope I have enough qiviut in the stash!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

When in doubt, wind

Christmas is coming so soon! and I am so not ready for it!

The sensible me:
NOT knitting for every single person on my list, like last year.

The ridiculous me:
NOT committing to projects for the few people I am knitting for.

Three people are definitely getting something knit, because I've got their things underway.

Two more might, if I can decide on a colour to use for the project that seems most likely to work for them.

Two others should, but I haven't decided on colour or pattern or yarn.

Enter winding.

What better way to maximize your stash potential while minimizing your decision-making efforts than to wind wool from skein to ball?

I had these two from Decadent Fibers (Cookie Dough and Creme Brulee, but I'm not sure which is which at the moment) custom-dyed so they would match. They both knit up on biggish needles... think I have time to make a mini poncho/shoulder warmer for an adult-sized person?

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Can't quit

Cannot quit the Vesper Sock Club.

Yes, I am swimming in sock yarn I can't possibly knit all of, but dang. Julia just keeps outdoing herself... I would be so bruised from kicking myself for missing out if I skipped a season!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Are we there yet?

My new kitchen scale is, seriously, the gift that keeps on giving.

Lately I've been wondering about how much more knitting there is in the shawl I'm aiming to finish in time for Christmas, and yesterday the thought occurred to me that I could find out by putting what's left of the skein on the scale:

54 grams.

I started out with 100 grams.

And it's taken me two full months to get this far.

I'm going to have to shift this particular project from 'travel knitting' to 'every spare minute knitting', yes?