Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Clockwork complete

Whew. It wasn't a lot of knitting really, but it did take an awful long time to make Clockwork given all the distractions. All that's in the past now:

In some places the Twisted Fiber Art strand (Ember, in Playful weight) came very close to the red of my Precieux (from Biscotte et Cie) but I like the combination all the same. The Precieux has some cashmere and some dehaired angora in it, so it's got a fuzzy halo, while the Playful has a little sheen; also, the Precieux is a lot of tightly spun threads loosely spun together such that you don't see twist at all, whereas the Playful has a prominently visible twist. The contrasts work really well together.

Plus: soft?? you wouldn't believe it. 100% soft squish, this thing.

Okay, I did allude yesterday to a little problem I'm having with this project now that it's done, and that's how on earth to wear it. If you look at other people's projects - and believe me, there are a lot, because this is a great pattern to knit - it is shown three ways:


Wrapped around the neck such that the center back of the piece is in front, with the two ends cascading over the shoulders

Slung over one shoulder, hanging down from the other

... and none of these techniques work for me under (or indeed over) my winter coat. With all that dense garter stitch, the wrap technique makes me look like I'm wearing a neck brace and doesn't fit into my coat anyway, and the sling technique just blows off once I walk out the door. Tying it in front is unrealistic because of the aforementioned weight. I can't even make it pass as a shawl to wear at home - it isn't wide enough in back to do the job.

I wet blocked if after taking these photos, and maybe the garter will have relaxed enough by the time it's dry to be a little more adaptable. If not, I have other ideas: strategically placed buttons, and I-cord loops? Stitching it into a cape? Knitting a sheath of Precieux over the raw sides so there is a place to hide the tails I didn't run in discreetly enough the first time?

Of course for coat use I can always leave it as is and fold it neatly across my neck and let the sides keep the rest of my front warm, but if I go to a coffee shop I won't be taking my coat off and letting the scarfishness glam up the rest of my outfit because it doesn't drape itself into the flattering folds I prefer, and for some reason just letting it hang there, the eye is drawn not to the cool spokes but to the aforementioned raw edges.

I guess I could choose that moment to do the slinging thing. It looks pretty good that way:

But it needs a matching hat.

For which I've already cast on, in spite of all the Christmas knitting I'm still not doing.

(well, really. If I can't wear this combo in December, when can I?)

Monday, November 29, 2010

All done


Just in time for Christmas, SUSP is leaving me for a full and happy life elsewhere. I boxed it up yesterday, and today it is beginning its journey via the courier office near my trainer's.

(This a good time, in fact, to acknowledge Carol's contribution: twice-weekly sets of wrist curls to ward off carpal tunnel. Couldna dunnit without her!)

Yesterday post-boxing ceremonies I went off on a road trip to see the CP holiday train, which in the event looked much like last year - and that's lucky, because my camera gave me Full Battery signals all the way until the train was pulling in, and then changed its mind. It's hard to get pictures of a lit-up train at night, anyway, unless you have a much better camera than I do.

This year, my friends and I went to a smaller town to see the train (the logistics seemed a little safer than cars moving over muddy unlit trainyard grounds through crowds of people with strollers and toddlers) which was awesome mostly for train reasons but also for the knitting opportunity.

I was just so anxious to finish Clockwork. This is how far I got before we lost the light at the end of the afternoon:

and then I worked on in the dark, making surprisingly few mistakes. I got all but the last row done before getting home again, and then I stayed up too late (I'm seeing a pattern here) to cast off and run in the ends.

So that's done. But I'll show Finished pictures later, when I have some. And hopefully, when that happens, I'll also be able to tell you how I fixed the problem I'm having with it, le sigh.

First though: gotta make my Christmas knitting plan, because wow, are we ever getting close to the big day.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coffeeshop knitting

I stayed up waaay too late last night reading through the last three months' worth of entries here at Hugs. Honestly, it's just like what I imagine a food diary to be, keeping this blog - an impartial witness who can tell you what choices have led to the result you now have.

So this morning I'm very tired, and I know why I've been very tired, for months now.

For a start, I've been grinding out Big Projects with Deadlines instead of just enjoying myself and stitching away on small manageable knits.

And I've been making gifts at the last minute, instead of following last January's idea of just making random Things when I feel so inclined and then magically having a fully-stocked gift shop in the crafty cupboard when I'm struck by the idea to give somebody a specialness.

Also, I devoted more than a week to a design idea I really wanted to work in spite of its obviously not workingness.

This insight isn't going to do much for me - just last night somebody asked me what I would like for Christmas (the implication being that said somebody would acquire and even wrap it) and I said Yarn for the Mariner sweater I want to knit, please.

As I drifted off to sleep later I thought - wouldn't it be great to start the new year without a single work in progress? Just a clean slate! (Because naturally, I can finish Clockwork and its matching hat and a new design that's cooking and anything else that gave way to Christmas crafting, all in the week between Christmas and New Year's.)

And this morning I remembered I am having coffee next week with a friend who's having a rough go, and it occurred to me I should make him a pair of felted wool mittens as a spontaneous Christmas offering. That isn't such a big deal to do as I'm sewing a few more pairs this week anyway - but then I thought it would be nice to make a pair for each of his kids too, with some matching wool in them for a wintertime bond when they're not together. It's too good an idea for me to give up without a fight but -


Clearly I'm not going to be changing my ways any time soon. Here I am doing all this plotting and scheming and I'm still not even finished the SUSP pattern-tweaking yet!

Luckily pattern tweaking doesn't travel well, and I have another one of those days today which will require a short stint in a coffeeshop between appointments. So I'm taking along the official Christmas knit, the one that can't not get finished, and I'm going to have hot chocolate.

Because I swear, I just saw some snowflakes drifting past my window.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Technically, as a Canadian, my Thanksgiving got celebrated weeks ago. But here at Hugs I can do pretty much anything, and even if I don't have turkey in my own oven today (though I will be poaching some chicken and roasting up a ton of veg) I am still having that Whew, Thanks! feeling.

Most of that is tied to SUSP being Done.


And drying, with only the pattern-writing left - and that, only polished. That is my job for today, the polishing. And a whole lot of cleaning and laundry that hasn't got done in a while for some I'm sure totally unrelated reason.

I took yesterday off and that is another thanks - getting to have one in the first place, and having a little recreational knitting to turn to in the evening:

Yes, I didn't forget Clockwork. And you know what - I did the counting and by virtue of my having designated it my travel knitting when I had a couple of can't-miss meetings to attend, there are really only 6 stripes to go. Each takes maybe a little over an hour now, even factoring in the extra stitches every fourth row, and then there is a base colour border. Say 8 or 9 hours max. And then I can wear it!

Which is another big Thanks, because if I didn't have a clean pair of mohair blend handknit boot socks waiting to get onto my feet it would be the season's first Winter Boot day. Temperatures below freezing with the wind chill, and rain probably, and grey grey grey. Feeling a lot of thanks for the Sailors let me tell you.

Another big thanks goes out to the four patterns I dreamed up right before SUSP hit, and swatched out, and then did nothing with - specifically, to the fact that I was able to write and chart them pretty much in their entirety in about two hours yesterday. I guess a lot more was going on in my subconscious than I realized, all that time I was knitting.

And most of all, thanks to the life I have that allows me to knit almost as much as I like, with such special yarns, among such wonderful people.

I hope your Thanks list is just as satisfying!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rethinking the resolutions

Yesterday I noticed a new pattern had been uploaded at Ravelry from the Fall 2010 Biscotte & Cie club. And speaking of which, you might want to think about putting a spot in the starting-in-February club on your wish list (deadline: December 25) because you get an exclusive pattern with each skein of luxury yarn at the low price of $85.00 for three months.

I got distracted and missed the deadline to join the fall club this time which was awful, but I did kinda get to participate because that new pattern I mentioned was mine - I was lucky enough to be asked to design for November's yarn!

All of Louise's colours and yarns are beyond yum, but knitting with this one - merino with a hit of cashmere in the most lusciously spun heavier weight - was an experience I had to draw out as long as possible. We called it Strawberry Sundae for the stacked cables that looked a bit like iced cupcakes, or ice cream.

(The pattern is currently exclusive to club members, but at some point in 2011 I'll be selling it here as well.)

Noticing the new pattern made me look over my design page at Ravelry, which made me blink.

Do you know, there are 26 patterns up on that page? That's in just 2 years - less, technically, as I didn't start publishing any until late January of 2009. And it doesn't count the other 8 or 9 designs I finished and haven't done anything with yet. Not counting them, that's more than one pattern every month.

This made me dig a little deeper into Ravelry's records. What have I done so far in 2010?

I've spun I think 6 100g braids of fiber (that's 1 skein every 2 months, without actually knowing how to spin yet.)

I knit a cardigan for myself

plus 2 Big Projects on Small Needles that aren't for myself

and a baby cardi.

I knit 6 pairs of socks

and 3 pairs of mittens

and a couple of short scarves

and the samples for the shawl and hat that came out in Interweave Holiday Gifts in October.

Oh, and some hats I haven't photographed, and the Double Double Cloche I published earlier this month, and the redesign of the Confectionery Cap.

None of which includes the stuff I'll finish off before New Year's.

Looking at all that, and remembering yesterday's potential resolutions, I can't help thinking I can do whatever I want in 2011.

And also that in some cases it's much better to look back than to look to the future: that way, you see all that you have done, instead of what you think you can't do.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


My friend Helena called my attention to a group on Ravelry for knitting 11 sweaters in 2011, and I'm thinking about it.

Not about 11 sweaters, but the idea of committing to something for the new year. Resolutions, really. And a leap over the work of holiday knitting to its presumably successful conclusion, plus the rewards of leisurely consumption of chocolate and dessert squares, ahem.

(and - okay, 11 sweaters. I guess if you knit nothing else, and some of them are bulky and some are for children?)

If I were so delusional as to think I could control my interests in the coming year from the distance of the previous November, what would I commit to?

Starting and finishing the project ideas I never pursued? This vest is weighing rather heavily on my mind, after all. It would be good to finish and wear it.

Spinning one skein a month? I could do that, probably. When I get going I can spin one on a spindle in a couple of days, a week tops. And I do have rather a lot of fiber right now. By which I mean a lot.

Knitting a pair of socks a month? That would take me partway through my stash of sock yarn, and go a long way to reducing my weekly sock-washing panic (speaking of which, I wonder if I have any dry ones for today?)

Designing a whole sweater by myself? That would be pretty great, if marginally crazypants.

Promising to knit only from my stash, with no new yarn or fiber purchases of any kind? Erm - totally crazypants. I don't have that kind of willpower.

Promising to make fiber and yarn purchases equivalent in value only to what I bring in through knitting-related work? Interesting, but pretty close to 'totally' on the crazypants scale.

Designing a new pattern every month? I can usually do a small one in a week, which is a lot less crazypants, especially if I'm not also trying to spin and knit socks and design a sweater.

What about a mix? Working through the current fiber stash, knitting perhaps 4 or 6 pairs of socks for myself, designing 4 new small projects and 1 sweater, and sorting out that vest? That would be... maybe 8 months' worth of projects, tops, leaving lots of margin for impulses and ideas and last-minute gift knitting. Almost imaginable.

What knitty things would you like to do, if you had a year to do them in?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Wish list

While I spent the weekend fussing over SUSP - I will find out this morning whether I can move on to the last few steps or frog and repeat the last 10 hours of work plus 5 - the girls over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies were discussing their holiday knitting progress.

I want some holiday knitting progress!

So as I knit and watched movies yesterday (Our Miss Brooks, A Summer Place, Suspicion, High Society, and something else with Virginia Mayo and Ronald Reagan, plus another episode of Sherlock) I dreamed of my knitting wish list, as opposed to the sewing list, which is quite long enough.

I think I'd like to buy the pattern for the Mary Jane socks I mentioned and make a pair for my mum - can I do that and finish the other Christmas knit in just four weeks do you think? I mean, it's just feet - in some gorgeous Biscotte & Cie yarn from last winter's club, all blues and whites for that clean snow feeling.

and I want to knit (or sew with felted wool) some sort of fish for a boy in my extended family whose disabilities are so severe as to warrant the most pleasant shape and texture and colour. He likes marine life generally, so it doesn't have to be a fish. I've been hunting and I think really my favourite fishy things are over at cheezombie, the source of Scribbles and Zinzaabub. They were so cute and so fast, though I guess just sewing a fish would be faster, and I do have rather a lot of felted wool waiting to be used up.

and I'd like somehow to knit something for Carol, my trainer, who by virtue of being the correct size will be determining in a few short hours whether SUSP is going forward or back. I'm leaning toward a second pair of the MJ socks because I know she loves the yoga ones I made her and wears them around the house all the time.

and... oh, this is bad.

I want to knit myself a hat.

(I do get to be on my own gift list, right?)

* * * * *

Whoo hooooo! SUSP looks awesome on Carol! That brings me a lot closer to realizing my Christmas dream of exhausting myself over handmade gifts. And speaking of which, how fabulous is this pillow? I seriously need to think about a fish version.

Friday, November 19, 2010

My plan backfired

I had such a fantastic run of knitting, watching the DVD set my aunt loaned me - I just worked on autopilot and felt as rested as after a 2-hour nap - and then yesterday around lunchtime I watched the last episode on the last disc.


My fingers stopped working and I started getting all restless, sitting there on the sofa. I found a zillion excuses to get up and wander around. The DVDs had distracted me only too well, and without them I had to face reality: I was burned out.

To be fair, I was thrown off by a bit of a shock at breakfast, too. Waiting for the water to boil for tea I was putting away some dishes that had dried overnight and when I picked up a large bowl toward the front, I found this in the place it had sheltered:


The biggest millipede I have ever seen in my entire life.

It was asleep, so I had time to clear away the rest of the dishes, though it was pretty breath-holding work because millipedes are so fast (how could they not be with all those legs?) and this one was pointed straight at me. The last thing I wanted was to have it run over any part of me, because I am squeamish about stuff like that. I had to be quiet and careful not to disturb it.


La la la la.

By late evening I had recovered sufficiently to get a little more SUSP done - but it was a very little, and I have a good bit more do to before the end of the weekend whether or not I am able to get my head and fingers back in the game today.

This would be a good time to stumble across another great series in one set of discs, I think.

Or to have a million working arms, like the millipede.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Good Fences Scarf - a free pattern

I knit this scarf last summer on driving holidays so as to make use of the Colinette ART yarn I'd bought, mid-swoon, the previous September.

I love handpainted and variegated yarns, but it's hard to find a stitch that works well for them.

Scarves themselves are hard, too - knitting them is generally easy enough, but choosing one? Yikes. There are so many patterns out there you're spoiled for choice.

What I like about this one is that it's
yardage-stretching, thanks to the lace
not too feminine to work for a man, in spite of the lace
and, most importantly - great for variegated yarn.

Yes. Because the stitch count changes partway through, eating up more yarn for a short time and dealing with any colour pooling that might possibly annoy you - and incidentally letting you stretch the scarf out further than otherwise possible, during blocking.

When summer was over and I began to need something to tuck around my neck, I reached for this scarf first. For both me and the man I tested it on, it's big enough to fold in or tie shut around the collar of a coat, but small enough not to be bulky.

That's with the one skein of yarn as written, though - with two, and twice as many pattern repeats before the end, you could make it long enough to hang dramatically and swing a little as you walk.

In fact the only difficulty with this scarf was naming it, until I saw the repeating pattern of chain link and hedges. Good fences, between the good neighbours of reverse pattern repeats.

Download .pdf of Good Fences Scarf

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Neglected and otherwise

The last week or so has been a frenzy of deadline knitting, which does make a nice change from pattern-writing and proofreading, even if it hasn't afforded any variety in yarn or project. I've been spoiling myself the last year or so, letting in multiple projects and leaping from one thing to another, so there are quite a few things I'm neglecting:

Getting my stripey mittens delivered to the woman who organizes trips to the Russian orphanage for which they were intended, Clockwork, and two sorts of spinning to be precise.

I'm also neglecting my Christmas knitting and a few other things.

What I'm not neglecting is movies. And the watching of DVD sets.

I spent most of yesterday parked in front of the television with the knitting; I intended to spend all of it with Season One of Lark Rise to Candleford - a loan from my aunt and uncle before they left for the winter - but was distracted by the opening of The Red Shoes on Turner Classic Movies and stuck around to watch it first.

I've heard a lot about this movie, which explores the sacrifice of a wider form of life that artists are expected to make for their work, and I thought it was probably something I ought to see, what with being such a classic film fan and all. I enjoyed it, but it was a little too riveting.

I know because it made me miss an important decrease row, frog slowly back, and then miss it all over again. GAH.

My take is that the main character is not the ballerina, but the man who runs her ballet company. It's a brilliant film and definitely worth taking time for if you've missed it up to now.

Lark Rise to Candleford by contrast is the perfect crafty companion: a costume series with recurring characters and visiting ones in most episodes, it's more than entertaining enough to make you forget you've been sitting knitting for three hours, but not so much as to make you miss an important step in your pattern. Now that's what I call Good Programming.

Last night I had to go to a meeting in heavy rain and I was afraid to risk SUSP getting wet if my bag leaked, so I brought Clockwork for an hour's knitting. It's been so long since I picked that up I was shocked by the difference in tension - seems I've been working SUSP with a much firmer hand than usual, such that Clockwork feels like a big sloppy mess. Kind of a treat, really, and it reminds me of why I was so eager to get it done. It's going to feel like a squashy warm hug under my winter coat, clear through to March I expect.

And I should be able to get back to it very soon - I figure SUSP has another week in it all told, and then it's back to personal knitting, yay! and housecleaning and laundry and sewing and rushing around instead of cosying up on the sofa.


Think I could stretch SUSP out a little longer? I hear The House of Elliott is pretty good...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Socks for Mary Jane(s)

While I was pillaging over at The Naked Sheep with Trish a couple of weeks ago, I resisted a pattern kit for a pair of sockettes (possibly the linked pattern, possibly just one a lot like it) perfectly proportioned for summer use with a pair of Mary Janes.

See: lonely MJs pictured above. The sockette came just far enough up the top of the foot to cushion the strap, and then ended in ribbing - super fast to make, probably, and also short on yarn consumption. Yum!

Why I resisted is beyond me unless I was struck suddenly by a moment of ill-advised fiscal responsibility. Don't you hate that? There should be a rule that it is always sensible to Not Spend, or to Spend. Instead it's always the clothes I'm meh about and think I shouldn't bother buying that I end up wearing constantly, assuming I give in. Fortunately the ensuing self-satisfaction tends to wash away the guilt from same.

The sockette idea has stayed with me partly because they looked so cute inside the shoes pictured on the kit, and mostly because last summer, right after finally getting my license, I noticed I really don't feel safe driving in open sandals.

Which meant wool socks and Mary Janes in every heatwave until I found a great pair of closed sneakerish shoes I can wear without socks for hours of hard walking without a single blister.

Which led to a whole lotta Hurrah! until the day I walked through dog leavings in them.

(which in turn led to a lot more Hurrah! for having just been to a water park to which I had brought a pair of flip flops into which I was able to change. Quickly.)

Long story short: my options now are to drag the sneakerish things out of their bag in the garage and clean them thoroughly, or knit a few pairs of footlets with, oh, I don't know, any of this?

I'm leaning toward the knitting.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reliving the 80s

The 80s were cheesy in many ways, but you had to appreciate the simplicity of the fashion. Pretty much clear through that decade you could do Big Everything, or you could do Vintage Everything (with big hair.)

I personally preferred vintage - this was a time when older people were shedding 50s party dresses and giant twirly skirts to charity shops that sold them for a buck or two apiece, which even the teenaged me could afford - and when I wasn't taking in the seams on a dress I was sewing up vintage patterns I found in the same shops. I have particularly vivid memories of the way dart construction set a 60s blouse apart from the 50s equivalent.

(incidentally, both versions were seriously high in the armpits. I honestly don't know how people moved around back in the day - what price long-waistedness, to the max.)

It was in the 80s that I learned to knit, too, and while I eyed vintage knitting patterns I'd learned my lesson from the armpit experience and focused on the other end of the current fashion spectrum. By which I mean big shapeless sweaters you didn't need to knit a gauge swatch for. Yay!

So you can imagine how intrigued I was when Vogue started putting out books like this one...

...books that promised to take those vintage patterns and update them for contemporary use. Made for me. Except, you know, for being priced out of the reach of a girl working two jobs to pay off her student loans, which is why it was particularly fun to have this very book come into my possession along with the destashed yarn I mentioned last week.

After all these years, I still love love love the vintage look:

and was therefore bewildered by the 80s update of same:

Shall we have that again? Before:

... and after:

Yes. I am shaking my head. The updated versions lost all the punch, which is not so much what I remember about 10 years that produced giant pants and giant shoulder pads and giant hair all designed to allow a girl (and also, Joan Collins) to dominate the visual landscape. I guess there was a season or two of a more relaxed, natural look that I either missed entirely or found forgettable.

There was a punch moment, though. Look!

Yep, that's Andie McDowell, who I'd forgotten modeled for Vogue before she started into movies. It was pleasantly nostalgic to keep running into Four Weddings And A Funeral-esque pictures of her throughout the book, though I don't know why it surprised me to see her. Her picture is, after all, on the back cover.

Think this sort of thing is what started me off on the hat obsession?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Another carrot

Breakneck-pace knitting continues at here at Procrastination Central, the hope and dream being that I can finish the super urgent secret project

(hereafter known as SUSP rather than SUP, because it seems I think quite enough about snacking while knitting without emphatic verb reminders)

before next weekend, having got mostly done by the end of Monday. After that the calendar is so full of Things, I won't get any clear stretches of time to make progress on anything but the little unfinished projects that are, frankly, making me more than a little crazy.

Of course, one cannot force oneself to work at full tilt without a carrot, and it's not like having this thing at the end will be my reward, because it's going to leave me forever when it's finished.

This is where a certain knitting friend comes in.

Pretty much literally, in fact, because she knocked at my door the very moment I was looking over a freshly blocked gauge swatch for SUSP.

This friend feels much as I do about yarn (see yesterday's reflections on its dream value and the burden of the unrealized dreams of unused yarn.) And she didn't take a 20-year break from knitting like I did, so she has a fair bit of that sort of burden, some of which had made its way into the back of her car for a drive to the local Goodwill in the interest of freeing her from same.

Having just completed such a stash review myself I know exactly how this felt, and furthermore how grateful I was to have Trish to take the best of my destash into her own, because I knew it would actually get used there. In fact, some of it already has.

So naturally I offered to take it all off her hands. Purely through my own generosity, ahem.

SUSP has forced me to take my time going through the destash box and to consider the possibilities, but I've noticed a recurring theme in my head as I work toward my Monday goal, and that is Hannah Fettig's Mariner Pullover from Interweave Knits Weekend 2010. Every day I feel more determined to make it when all this is done. And although it isn't the first colour I would choose for a wear-every-day sweater to pair with my grey and black base wardrobe, I keep being drawn to it. I mean, it's pretty obvious isn't it that 10 balls of Jo Sharp wool are meant to be knitted up into something very special.

Except that I'm 200 yards short.

So I guess I could either stop eating cookies while knitting so as to go down a size and have enough yarn for it, or hope that the 200 yards is just the buffer you build in so people buy enough yarn to make the pattern, or add in a second colour for the hem and cuffs, try to stretch the rest out as I go, and tie in the second colour with contrasting buttons.

But I kind of love that the pullover is all one simple colour, and I love the drape it has with the existing yarn, so maybe Jo Sharp needs to be something else, like a swingy vest.

And maybe I could knit Mariner with this, for which it looks like there is more than enough:

Either way it's definitely a carrot, if not of the obvious beckoning pattern/yarn combo variety. And it makes me so grateful for things continuing to fall into place the way they do. Thank you, knitting friend!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Knitting synonyms

Hope you don't come here just for the eye candy, because I have no pictures today. What I've made progress on, I can't show you, and what I can show you has no visible progress (and yes, I am talking about Clockwork, in spite of my having snuck it over beside me while movie-watching the other night when I was supposed to be working on something else.)

I do have a few photographable things I'd like to natter on about, but I didn't have any time to capture them in daylight yesterday, so they will keep. What won't keep is the Urgent Secret Project, or do I mean Secret Urgent Project so as to abbreviate it SUP?

I've been working hard on this even though there have been an unusually high number of distractions, and as I work, I can't help but think, and here are some things I've been thinking about:

Knitting is a lot like writing in all the ways I keep saying it is, except that where my writing submissions are practically always rejected, my knitting ones don't seem to be. I need to rethink my writer's training of constantly submitting ideas if I'm to have any time for recreational knitting, let alone spinning.

Yarn is a lot like clothes in a store at the start of a new season - there may be more clothes in there than 300 women could wear out in two years (except in the size and colour you actually wanted), but they will mostly all eventually find homes because People Love New Things. And with yarn, it's not just the New, but the Dream that goes with it - the idea that it will be used for something magnificent.

Yarn that doesn't get used is a little like a dream that's never realized, unless the dream is to have something beautiful and touchable to gaze at and sigh over and hold like a teddy bear, which in my view is a perfectly acceptable use for yarn, though perhaps not for 3 drawers full of yarn, at which point it is guilt-inducing in the way that only an unrealized dream can be. If it walks like a duck, and it sounds like a duck, etc.

The 'likes' produced questions:

Is it counterproductive to keep buying more yarn to pile up on the unrealized dreams, or smart because it keeps much-loved yarny professionals in business?

and on a more day-to-day plane,

Does knitting really keep people from snacking after supper? Because it sure doesn't work for me. Did help me create scientific proof that one can eat Double Stuf Oreos without getting chocolate cookie crumbs on one's work in progress, though.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Such an exciting week in spite of a few setbacks on the Giant Urgent Project front

(and the whole e-mail virus thing that kept slinking back yesterday in spite of my antivirus software continually spotting and eradicating it, grrr.)

This is mainly due to a continued influx of new things, really to quite a large degree for somebody not spending money on yarn until a big hunk of physiotherapy is complete and paid for.

First off, I got my November installment of the Twisted Fiber Art fiber club and, ohhhhh,

it's um really just so far beyond, whoa, I want to spin this


and can't.

I mentioned the Giant Urgent Project, right? Yeah. H'mmmmm.

There was a little bonus tucked into the same envelope:

and yes, it's soft. Softer than it looks even.

I think perhaps we should take a moment to admire what a responsible person I am to keep my professional responsibilities a priority under the circumstances, don't you? And maybe have a motivational cookie as well.

Or not, because I did take Monday evening off to go to the Royal Winter Fair, a huge agricultural fest that just amazes me for drawing so many people into the city to live at the Exhibition grounds for 10 days while showing their (astonishingly gorgeous) animals and/or staffing a booth.

(my favourite in the latter category showcased the wonderfulness of canola and featured not only Carol, a super nice lady with a quilt shop in Saskatchewan, but also a big bin of canola seeds with construction truck toys to drive through it all. Canola seeds feel so far beyond wonderful in your hand, Carol and I agreed they should be sold in bags for therapeutic use. )

I'm not a horsey person at all, either, so it's a constant revelation to walk through booth after booth of tremendously expensive equestrian gear and to watch the horses all groomed up and strutting and even pulling elaborate carriages. Sort of How The Other Half Lives, except that the first time I went I hadn't realized such a Half lived at all.

But mostly it's the living at the Ex thing that gets me. Not everybody does it - I think mostly only when you're looking after animals - but even if you're just covering the opening hours that's a long haul. Even this time, I heard so many people saying to each other, 'Good thing it's only 10 days!' as they bought another bag of kettle corn (and having brought home a bag myself I have to agree, because if I was in any closer proximity to that stuff there would be trouble.) It's like a surreal world there, away from natural light and breezes and grasses, all the animals resting on giant piles of hay in open areas for school groups to come through and learn about. 10 days of it must be so weird.

Weird but also fun, and not least because it's like any other Fair where things get judged and awarded ribbons. Things like wool, in a much more raw form than what I got from Twisted.

I loved this summary of what makes wool so wonderful - you can click on the image if you want to read it too:

but also, I loved looking at a huge pile of fleeces. I know in theory that there are all kinds of breeds out there, but even so it was amazing to see this big a variety of colours and textures.

I took a closeup of the winners, but I would need to know a lot more about wool before I could tell you what made them even more outstanding than the others; from this distance, they all look purely delicious.

Not kettle corn delicious, but still. Yummy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Last week I alluded to the trip Trish and I took to the Naked Sheep, which is closing and having a huge sale to move out all its remaining inventory by the end of the month.

Now, we all know that I do not need more yarn, and furthermore that physiotherapy bills are forcing me to be far more fiscally conservative than I would like. But I loved the Naked Sheep and never mind that I wanted a few last souvenirs of my shopping time there, I wanted to do my part to help clear out that store.


And I was pretty good, considering.

I desperately needed more Addi needles in sizes I either don't have covered or do have covered but only in lace points, which I just find really really hurty on the fingertips such that I use them only when I must have that sharp tip. There were lots left, so I was able to get these:

I also got this how-to-spin DVD which is not the one Helena recommended I get my hands on but looks delightful all the same:

Somehow a virus got around my antivirus protection and invaded my e-mail files about ten minutes ago or I would be able to tell you which DVD she did recommend. I am trying not to panic about the virus or the fact that I foolishly haven't backed up my files in a Really Long Time and am just trusting to the powers of Norton Internet Security and failing that, my genius brother, la la la la deep breathing.

And finally - and this is something I may be squishing for reassurance purposes later on today - I bought a big hunk of yarn:

It's perfect for a hat - look, it even matches my scarf! And I don't have to tell you what else it matches.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Finish Line

I knit in installments throughout Saturday and got this:

You may notice that my uncle's eyeglass case is now striped horizontally. Yes. Well, when I was nearing the end of my aunt's and compared the length to the finished one for my uncle, I noticed that the stranding had pulled his case to the ideal finished width - which means it would have felted to the right size for a very special pen.

(which in fact wouldn't be a bad idea for this particular uncle.)

Still. Principle! I wanted a matchy gift, so I frogged back to the solid blue and striped it the other way.

News You Can Use: stranding takes up more yarn than row by row striping.

Both cases were dry enough by Sunday afternoon for their 'After' glamour shot:

Once again, the tab part stretched out hugely long in the washer. But that's a bonus because it means you can machine stitch on a bit of Velcro and then fold up the tab and tack it to hide any messy stitching.

In fact, I happened to have thread that exactly matched both cases, so I decided to machine stitch the tabby part closed.

Gift bonus: the machine stitching was done on the 1940s Singer I've used for all 20 of the years since this aunt's mother downsized and they gave her machine to me. Sweet, yes?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Knitting in instalments

Today is all about non-family deadline knitting, so it's good that I managed to fit in so much of the glasses case around the craziness of yesterday.

This is how far I got while waiting for Trish:

and this is what I knit in the car with Trish en route to my LYS of choice The Naked Sheep, which is closing, which breaks my heart, but filled my knitting cabinet with mementos to be revealed at a later time:

While taking this picture I noticed I'd forgotten to start adding in the white stripes I'm using to avoid needlefelting some details on at the end, so I had to frog back a bit, but then I forged ahead.

While I neglected supper:

After supper while neglecting to get ready for the party:

At the party, which - in spite of holding out on leaving the house before casting off - I managed to arrive at after a few people but before a few others:

In the end I wasn't sure about that diagonal stripe for my uncle, so I'm doing random horizontal ones for my aunt. Mostly what I'm doing here is hoping that felting makes the colour transitions a lot more subtle, but I guess you won't know whether that worked till Monday, heh heh heh.

(unless I don't manage to fit in time to knit the rest of the pink, in which case it will be ack ack ack.)

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Today is where la la la playtime meets Whoooooa work time, because the Super Secret Urgent project got itself ready to begin about ten minutes after I pulled together these colours:

They are all Patons Classic Wool, also known as the raw material for my aunt and uncle's Christmas stripey glasses cases. And since they are getting themselves ready to leave for a winter in Florida, and I am notoriously bad at getting to the post office on time if I miss their departure, the glasses cases are Super Urgent as well.

I have a social thing tonight - this is rare enough, but also I have been looking forward to it which is rarer - and I am going to need a nap today owing to the crabby factor and another round of Staying Up Late To Swatch, so today looks like it will be interesting.

Check back tomorrow for how far I got with the Patons (and if I don't post at 7am, it will be because I had to wait for another round of daylight to take pictures.)

Meanwhile, other crunchies:

If you are wishing you too could be part of the Vesper Sock Club, spots for new members are now open in the Fall/Winter installment. It is killing me but I have to miss this one owing to physiotherapy eating up all my yarn money (darned Achilles tendon, I wish I didn't need one so much.) Did I say killing me? Slow torture, that's what it is.

And it didn't help that yesterday when I was feeling hurty post-physio I put on a pair of socks made from club yarn and was vividly reminded of how exceptionally soft and happy all Julia's skeins are.

My one comfort is that I bought a spot in the Twisted Fiber Art fiber club before the physio started, but that is also slow torture at the moment because I have noticed there is a lot of activity in the Ravelry spoiler thread which exposes photos and hosts discussions of the current month's batch. And mine has not yet arrived.

Can't - look - Can't - look - away - GAH.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Pass it on

Swatched all day yesterday, swatching all day today - I think I am actually getting to like swatching. Impatient though I am, it seems likely my ideas for designs will be harder to mislay or miss the point of when worked up in swatch form than in a rough sketch on scrap paper.

Of course, Super Secret Swatches make for Very Dull Blog. But that's okay because I want to tell you about a friend who got hold of me yesterday in a small panic.

The problem: her daughter had been knitting a scarf for months for her baby cousin's first birthday and must present it this weekend, and had finished the last row, but did not know how to cast off. Neither did my friend. Could I help?

Could I! We met up at a convenient halfway point and I cast off the stitches while we chatted, my friend effectively smacking herself in the forehead when she saw how easy it was. Isn't it always so easy though, once you know how?

(except Kitchener Stitch, which is so easy after you've done 15 stitches, and immediately forgotten after the seam is done and must be relearned all over.)

When I got home and emptied my pockets I found the remains of the yarn:

A pink garter stitch scarf for a baby girl cousin - does a first-time knit get any cuter or more heartfelt?

The scarf itself was very sweet. When asking me to finish it my friend also asked if I could teach her and her daughter to knit (again, YES) but really her daughter has knit stitch down pat. She had followed a very straight line for quite a long time before she inadvertently started adding in stitches, but she did that in such an interesting way - a bulge off to the left that decreased back in and then bulged off to the right and back in and over to the left again - I suggested they treat it as a design feature.

Then I told them to think about a Thing they would like to knit when they're learning to do more. Because even a swatch can be a Thing when it's finished - like, a bag, or a cowl, or even a hat (because K2tog is a natural add on to K, and you can always seam a hat up the back.)

This reminds me that I volunteered to help teach knitting at a local school come winter, when the teachers take turns supervising indoor activities because the weather can get to be cold and miserable even in the daytime. I'm really, really looking forward to this after two years of not getting even the hint of knitting interest from the small people on my block (though some of them are even now not quite 5 and may come around in time.) They are, boys and girls alike and regardless of age, uniformly interested in roving - it's the squish factor, I think - but the notion of looping the cords around to make something produces no fascination at all.

Kinda makes me feel like I'm from another planet, really, and reminds me how grateful I am for Trish living nearby and being so super yarny. Even if she does keep distracting me with tales of yarn dyeing.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why it's worth learning to spin

I've been kind of down the last few days, which probably has nothing to do with Halloween frenzy and the inevitable sugar crashes that result from close proximity to more candy than 50 trick-or-treaters could possibly want, plus cold weather, plus an in-theory beautiful knitting design that kept going wrong, plus an unfinished definitely beautiful knitting project overlooked in favour of the aforementioned design. Or - wait, yeah, it's probably those things. Plus the other stuff.

So yesterday, seeing as how I'm in my last few days of what passes for loose ends before a big urgent project starts, I thought I'd better put my house in order, literally. I took a nap, and I vacuumed, and I tidied up my work space, and planned a healthy supper that was not supposed to include Halloween candy and then did anyway.

But I didn't feel like knitting.

I always work on a knitty thing I can pick up and put down in the last hour or so before I have to make supper - possibly owing to a subconscious need for an excuse to burn at least one part of it or at minimum delay the whole - and it was either the now decidedly not portable Clockwork thingy, or the More-Miss-Than-Hit froggable project I have admitted defeat about until I brew up some other idea for it, or starting something new, which is unwise in the face of the aforementioned big urgent project.

And then I noticed my spindle and the undyed Polworth I'm spinning with it, just sitting on my desk, waiting.

It's so peaceful. And soft. Drafting it out involves, essentially, petting fiber. There are no stitches to get wrong and rip out - only spinning. And I don't have to come up with some great use for it, because even the parts I've already finished are still just unplied singles, though actually this is destined to be a cuddly toy some day.

The Polworth reminds me that it is very good for knitters to learn how to spin, and keep beautiful fiber to work with, for stress relief between (or instead of) knitting projects. And I am very grateful to all the people who have kindly put me on the path of doing it with reasonable success. You know who you are and I thank you enormously.

Meanwhile, I mentioned the cold weather, right? It's cold here. Today I accepted that we are officially past the date at which I can get away with my microfiber glove/felted wool handwarmer combo, because my fingertips are freezing ten minutes from my house, every day. I even had to move into my warmest wool/alpaca blend hat, which is sort of a beret shape.

At this point in my story I would like to ask:

How many times have you seen berets worn like Brambles in the current issue of Knitty?

Lots, I bet. I see them looking like that all the time in pictures, and on freezing cold teenagers in the dead of winter. Where I live, you just can't get away with wearing a hat on the back of your head unless it's for purely decorative purposes. Once you actually need a hat

(which is about when most of the local teenagers deign to wear one, unless some clever person gave them the kind with a monkey face on it in which case they can not wear that hat enough, and rightly so)

you're well beyond the point where you can safely expose your forehead. Plus, the wind would just rip one of those back of head things right off you and carry it up into a tree for a next-spring bird's nest.

I know all this; I know I will freeze and get ice cream headache just from breathing in the cold air; but those pictures are all


Which is why I decided yesterday that I had to wear my beret-like thing on the back of my head. I put my hair in ponytails, the better to hold it in place. I went outside. There was no wind, so it didn't blow off. And most of my looser hair stayed out of my eyes, being decoratively pinned under the brim by the sheer force of rib stitch.

But I froze.

Which takes me back to the drawing board about how to wear a beret. And, incidentally, back to swatching.

Monday, November 1, 2010

In praise of swatching

I had such a weird weekend, which I guess is appropriate since Halloween is meant to be weird. And I did do a lot of Halloweening, so, you know.

What I didn't do very much was knit. That is just so unlike me! I brought some socks along to a party and looked at them and couldn't immediately tell which row I'd left off at, which was a big hint I shouldn't attempt going on with them just then. And I didn't even look at my Clockwork project, though not literally since I moved it off the coffee table and set it on the side one. Which is really a sewing machine. Which should have been open for sewing because I have rather a lot of that to do but am not doing it because of the knitting.

Should you really call it a coffee table if you aren't so much of a coffee drinker? Tea table implies something very different, doesn't it, with multiple levels and wheels. Never mind.

What knitting I did do was swatching.

Some knitters actually enjoy swatching as much as anything because it lets them play with different yarns to see what they will do, and when I come across somebody like that I envy them the joy they take in that process, because I am so impatient. For me, swatching is like, gah. Putting down a lot of newspaper and taping it in place before transforming a room with paint. I want to get on with the transforming, already.

And that reminds me, I saw an ad for paint that is so low-odor, you can move back into a room an hour after applying the last coat. That sounds fabulous, assuming you can move the furniture back in that same hour, because I have a lot of window frames that need attention. Attention they haven't been getting because I have been too busy knitting. Or do I mean, Not Swatching?

Yes, that's what I'm getting at. Swatching is so important, even if you don't love it for itself alone, because it saves time in the end.

I have this luscious - and I mean honestly, just irresistible - yarn on one of my favourite circular needles with a bright red beaded stitch marker and if I have to frog it one more time I am going to go totally crazypants. And I know I will, because after I-have-lost-count, but many, attempts I have still not hit on my dream stitch for this project, and furthermore I think I am knitting it into a size bigger than I want for myself, which means not just frogging back to the beginning of section number 2, but to the cast on.

Here's my point. If you cast on 30 stitches and work out a stitch over maybe 30 rows, you will know if it looks awesome with the yarn you are using in the colour you have. And you will know a huge ton faster than you will if you cast on 135 stitches and do the same. Yes, it might turn out that your 30-stitch swatch will look fantastic right out of the gate, but if it does, you will have the added pleasure of knowing you will be delighted with the end result the entire time you are knitting it.

Instead of frogging it while stoically not looking at the Clockwork project you could have finished by now and been wearing over your shoulders while swatching.

But hey, at least I did a good Halloween house.