Friday, January 29, 2010

Knowing when to quit

Well, I've been working on a certain pink and green project for most of this week. A couple of nights ago I finished it and the next day I tried it out and

it was hopeless.

Too big, entirely dysfunctional, and I didn't much like the charted pattern I used.

What to do?

I got home, took a photograph, did some measurements and made some notes, and then...

F r o g g e d

Not all the way. Just enough to get me to my size. Right away so I wouldn't lose my nerve.

And then I spent the rest of the day reknitting it and wet-blocking it.

And now it is dry and I will try it again because I know that the right time to quit is

not yet!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Mail drop

One of my favourite things about ordering stuff online is getting it in the mail. Recently I needed stitch markers with a metal loop and a friend recommended a maker from Etsy, Pennywenny. Perfect! I ordered her largest sizes and cast on almost every project I have wanted to start, knowing I would soon not be running out of stitch markers and having to pace myself.

And this week, they came:

And they came with candy! I am such a sucker for that.

International appeal:

The candies were actually made here in Canada, but packaged up for me in Massachusetts, and routed to Toronto by way of Japan. I don't question the US postal service because I am pretty bad at geography but I am thinking that is an unusually long bad-weather detour. The next morning I sent a US-bound Valentine's swap package a whole week earlier than I intended, just in case.

And now to take a closer look at the cuteness:

Aren't they so sweet? I can't wait to use them - the red ones are totally pairing up with my exciting new blue socks, which should hit the needles this weekend. I just had one one other little something else to finish first...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Looming interests

I love reading other people's blogs, and then reading the blogs those people think are worth sharing. This tends to be a pleasant, often educational, usually inspiring pastime but


it gets me into trouble.

Like, this post here? The one about the loom? The one with the picture of the scarf made with the loom?

(it's all the same link: I'm going for repetition to build excitement. Did it work?)

Reading that led me over to look at the Cricket loom mentioned therein. I like this loom: it's small - probably too small, much like my house and the amount of storage space left in it. But I also like the Flip Folding Rigid Heddle Loom and not just because saying it five times fast is kinda hilarious.

You could make a small floor mat on that bad boy.

Out of superwash wool.

As in, a machine-washable and dryable swishy mat for the sink where one might otherwise be doomed to scour pots in barren discomfort forever.

Yes, it would be the most expensive mat in the neighbourhood, but if we permit arguments like that, we wouldn't pick up our needles at all, am I right? And that would never do.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Young love

On my way somewhere else this weekend I wandered through my stash and couldn't help noticing some pretty fabulous combinations that escaped me before.

Of course, the overcast weather and consequent bad lighting conditions make it hard to show what I see, but indulge me:

Lanolin-rich wool from the supremely talented Jessie, and luscious merino/mohair from Knitterly Things

Sock club wool ("Snowflake") from Biscotte & Cie and Mirasol Nuna in wintery white

Hand-dyed wool and silk from The Black Lamb, and another skein of sock club wool/silk/bamboo blend from Biscotte & Cie

It's just like young love when you find combinations like this, don't you think? Everything is new, the possibilities are endless, you could stare adoringly at it all for hours and not even notice you missed the last three meals.

Being old and jaded I tried to ignore the yarn, having Other Things to do and a pair of gorgeous socks to leap into, but in the end I couldn't help myself.

I mean, if you're going to sit down with milk and fresh-baked cookies on a grey winter day, you really gotta have something pink to go with, right?

Monday, January 25, 2010

At last

Remember the gorgeous blue organic merino I bought from Midnight Sheep and couldn't decide what socks to make with it?

Well, these are the socks I'm making with it! (Ravelry link here.)

Look, look - I've even started to cast on, can you believe it?

I know it is fate to match this yarn to this pattern because to get gauge - okay, jut the fact that I got gauge at all has fate's fingerprints all over it because my tension is so loose I don't always manage it - I had to go down to 2.25mm needles, which is the size I use for my Vesper socks, and therefore the size I have four sets of in KnitPicks' Harmony Wood. So I can do more than one pair at a time, of course.

(Yes, I did have a second pair of socks on the second set of needles, but it was the work of a moment to shift them on to less-likeable 2.25mm sets while they wait.)

Plus - the leg circumference in the pattern is exactly mine, and the number of stitches? exactly what I cast on for the Vespers that fit me.

True, I am feeling a low-grade fear that there won't be quite enough yarn in the ball for socks as long as I'd like, but what the heck. I can always make them shorter or do a striped foot or something, right?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Tricks: not just for kids

I learned a couple of new things this week I thought I'd share.

First up: when you're casting on something circular and top-down, the first row of stitches can be super fiddly.

You might have to cast on 6 times just to get them lined up for it, and you might even find yourself waiting even to try for up to two days until just the right level of peaceful silence is scheduled to occur for a minimum of 20 minutes while you sort it out.

Alternatively, you can go down two needle sizes and cast on with that, then distribute your stitches and continue with the size you got gauge with. The stitches are so much more obedient then.


Learn to love swatching.

Really, really love it.

So much that even two hours spent slaving over a new stitch that looks gorgeous and is even pretty fun to execute, but turns out to tighten up the width of the fabric in a way suggestive of a boa constrictor, constitutes close to the best evening of your life.

Alternatively, you can cultivate your Denial skills and pretend that the two hours were actually spent watching TV and learning that a Roman invented the first life jacket (so he could swim across a river at night to start an insurrection, in full armor just in case he got caught by the guys he was going to insurrect against.)

I go with Door Number Two on this one. You?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

I see sheep people

The other day somebody said to me MAAAAN, there's a waltz in every movie! which is ridiculous, of course, because nobody puts a waltz into a trench warfare story. Except that every movie I've seen since then has a waltz in it - either people dancing it, or just the music in the background. Try watching for them yourself. It's kinda addictive.

It's the same for me with sheep. Now that I'm knitting again I find sheep everywhere! Even last night, when I was reading The Morville Hours (which is technically the nonfiction story of a woman's journey in planting a garden outside her history-rich Shropshire home) I came across a passage about sheep-shearing.

Apparently, while fleece was the foundation of the medieval economy, a fleece today goes for about 60p! What is that, less than $2 US? I can think of some woolly people who would beat a path to the farm door for a deal like that.

Regardless of the value placed on a sheep's fleece today, of course, they are still tops for keeping grass clipped.

Even my little guy would like to get out to the back yard and have a go.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Hair torn out, then glued back in

This is a radio show post (no pictures, use your imagination) about me and the very small Thing I have been knitting for the past three days.

Scene One:

Waking up with an image of the Thing in my mind, its instructions just waiting to be written down and the project knit.

Scene Two:

Stumbling across a call for submissions that completely matches the description of the Thing. Fate!!

Scene Three:

Transcribing the now two-day-old image to paper and yarn and needles and realizing that while the shape and structure are intact, the stitch sequence has deserted the brain that bred it.

Scene Four:

Frantically searching through stitch books to find reasonable facsimile. Finding same, then transposing it to paper and flipping the instructions so it moves in the opposite direction.

Scene Five:

Knitting and ripping swatch three times before realizing the transposed stitch sequence left out a few critical K2togs.

(this is where the hair starts to come out.)

Scene Six:

Finally getting it right! and then realizing it's horribly wrong on the 6th row, requiring a very big frog fest, bravely executed.

Scene Seven:

Realizing it wasn't wrong at all and the entire thing needs to be reknit.

Scene Eight:

Looking at the finished swatch which is gorgeous. And hoping there's enough left in the swatching yarn to make a full-sized version for myself.

Of course, it can all go wrong again in Scene Nine: blocking. Which is why it's good I have so many hats lying around for the fallout from Scene Ten.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Knitting with Victor

It's been a while since Hugs has had an appearance by Victor LaVache, so I figured we're due. Victor is an excellent neck and shoulder warmer and I guess he's been perched up there watching me knit long enough to think he can have a go.

He is just small enough to get lost in this, my first knitting project bag from tiny happy.

Oh - got it out! Hooves are no limit for this young lad.

He's really coming along with that Monkey sock, don't you think?

Moving so fast I couldn't get a non-blurred shot of him ;^)

Monday, January 18, 2010

The two-hour tidy

Resistance be futile: over the weekend I realized I would have to clean up my knitting gear. It wasn't that I couldn't find anything... it was just so messy. What's the point of having a yarn cupboard you can open up to sniff at for aromatherapy purposes if the chaos inside (and, um, outside as well) gives you a stress attack?

It took a while, but it's much better now.

It helped that I found a different place to put the sewing fabric that's been accumulating in there since I started opening up the machine on weekends. Also that I found another square basket with a hinged lid in which to stash some felted sweater bits I'd singled out for sewing together a speedy little cardi but haven't got to yet. And I took advantage of a couple of drawer pockets that weren't too busy to hold some infrequently accessed knitting aids.

While sorting, I found:

the perfect yarn for a multicoloured shawl. And

the perfect yarn for a Haapsalu shawl (off-white alpaca in fine fingering - can you imagine???) And

a lot of roving from when I tried to learn to spin last spring! And

a lot of stuff for needle felting

(those last two might start inching their way toward the felted cardi basket, don't you think?) And

a nice clear slot for my beloved kitchen scales that still haven't seen the kitchen, they've been so busy with yarn.

While doing this I found time to play with the scales, separating balls of sock yarn into perfectly-matched smaller pairs for two socks each.

And I cast on for another idea I had, and I knit a lot of Monkey... but more about that tomorrow. For now I would just like to revel in my tidy knitting cupboard. And maybe go open up the doors for a nice soothing sniff.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Lions for babies

While pondering the question of knitted presents for a baby

(or do I mean questions - as in, what is machine washable, soft, unisex plus one size fits all, potentially useful from early days to the brink of puberty if only through being passed down to younger siblings, and quick to knit?)

(that last point pretty much omits 'blanket', you will notice, leaving our ponderer in a rather lonely position)

I considered my options from another point of view.

Specifically, what's in the stash?

And I remembered this little number:

Tanis Fiber Art Green Label Aran Weight Superwash Wool.

In 'Amber'. And I have three skeins of it. Doesn't it just scream 'stuffed lion'?

A little digging produced a charming pattern from the Victoria and Albert Museum collection of 1940s knits - a lion called Leo, complete with tiger friend. Ha! Now to find time to knit him - perhaps while pondering why the highly functional brim I've knit onto the latest hat slept through "Hip" and got off the train at 'Frumpy"?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Shawl update

I know you're all wondering:

When is Mary going to finish her trainer's Christmas shawl???

I mean, when you think of all the things Carol has done for me and my health in the past year - the past four years really - she totally deserves not to have to wait eleven months for it like my aunt did with her last year's birthday hat.

(I did mention the hat is finished now and she loved it, right?)

So I want to reassure you that I finally resolved the technical errors therein by ripping it back nearly to the beginning and starting over, paying attention to the pattern this time, and remembering to put in all the yarn overs. And now it looks like this:

It's probably big enough to cover part of one whole shoulder, don't you think?

Ah, progress.

(I finished another hat yesterday too, but all I can say about that is how impressed I am with myself for pulling that off and still having time to take a pic of the shawl and drink hot chocolate. Went a little short on sleep, but you can't have everything... not all in one place anyway.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Matching monkeys

At long last! I have cast on a pair of Monkey socks. But I didn't use either of the yarns I was considering - I decided there was just enough left from the skein of my very favourite Vesper colourway (Open Flame) after knitting the cuffs of my Eloquence mittens to make a pair of these, if I do a contrast heel.

It's been a while since I knit a sock, which is so much more meditative and peaceful than I remembered, and even longer since I knit one in Vesper sock yarn. It's a great base yarn, and the colours are so bright, and you only have to go through about 4 rows to get to the next one, which draws you onward like a good book long past your bedtime.

I must have been thinking of all that when I stocked up on sock-sized needles and stitch markers, so I could knit multiple pairs at once:

Of course, being paranoid about my sock knitting skills, I cast this pair on simultaneously:

And with the same amount of tail.

Then I knit the cuffs of both so they'd be the same length:

And now I can move on with the pattern. As predicted, the lace sequence is easy enough for me to remember, but just in case I have to go a few weeks between sock knitting jags I set myself up with a cue card:

I was glad to find an arrow-shaped paperclip to help me remember which row I was doing last.

And now that I'm set up... it's back to Carol's shawl.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Baby love

I was in to see my doctor yesterday and - though I didn't realize it until the receptionist told me - she's expecting her third baby! Honest, I could have sworn those were just really cool pants she was wearing; she's one of those people who just doesn't show even when they're due in about 6 weeks, which she is.

So of course my first thought is:

must knit a baby present!

Swiftly followed by:

must also knit the second half of the baby present for another friend whose little girl had a little sister earlier this fall (matching hats; baby size still needs to be cast on)


really must knit baby present for another friend's baby girl who has got to be a year old now (it would have happened by now if they hadn't moved away, honest)


oh dear, not another Baby Sebastian scenario.

Sebby is the son of a colleague I had in 1989, born coincidentally just as I fell in love with an adorable pattern for a sleeper with bows worked in contrasting yarn across the tummy. It took me so long to knit and deliver it that Sebby's mother was able to drag it shut over him just once for a photo to slip into the thank-you card. I so hope Sebby had a younger sib to wear that thing.

oh dear. Sebby could have a baby of his own at this point, couldn't he.

Anyway when you're this late with presents, only a handknit will do, and I certainly have plenty of potential in the stash, but what to make? Baby Surprise Jackets all round? It's got to be something not too fitted since I probably won't see any of these babies to get the sizing right, and not too much like a blanket, which I'm guaranteed never to finish.

All of which is to say I expect to be knee-deep in patterns by noon. If I'm not back here tomorrow, send for help, wouldja?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Monkeys with bells on

I thought the dam would burst when I finally finished my aunt's hat, just short of a year after offering it to her... that I'd suddenly be free to knit all the projects I've wanted to make that whole time and didn't because I was doing something else for a deadline or
just feeling guilty or
knitting a sock.

Instead, I spent the weekend sewing a little project that came out quite nicely. I'll talk more about that another day but for now, I can tell you what I learned:

You can spend an entire evening standing up measuring and cutting and then most of a day standing up designing and ironing and sewing - and end up with something that fits in the palm of your hand or

You can sit on the sofa for a little less time and end up wearing a warm hat on a freezing day. Ahem.

So, moving right along:

After the sewing was done, the dam did burst, at least a little. I printed off the instructions for Cookie A's Monkey Socks, which I always liked but then felt an overwhelming need to make when I saw my friend Sandra's. Also, when I was browsing around on Ravelry I spotted a photograph of the most enchanting socks imaginable and stared for many a moment before realizing that

a/ they were knit in The Holly and The Ivy and
b/ they were Monkey Socks.

And now I have to decide whether I want to make those exact socks... or try the Monkeys in a four-colour stripe rather than the three colours of my Holly/Ivy yarn. Because this came in the mail last week:

It's cute and would be adorable in my Mary Janes in spring and - it's called Jingle Jangle. Can you really beat the idea of monkeys with bells on?

(in other news - yay! - my aunt loved the hat.)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Cross your fingers

I am seeing my aunt tomorrow, and if I don't have her hat finished by then, it will continue to expand and fill all of next week too. So:

I. Must. Complete. It.


Honestly, it's not a complex stitch at all, and the shaping, while a little different than my usual, hardly weird. Yet even a sheep can knit while watching TV more effectively than I did last night, when I knit two rows and had to rip back at least half of one before I could go on and then made more mistakes and had to repeat the process over about two hours.

(this was still an improvement over yesterday afternoon, when I worked on a shawl and knit three entire rows only to rip back two, over and over for one hour.)

(do you think maybe I'm just too distracted to knit right now?)

Updated several hours later to add:

HA. Done! Ends run in! Blocked!

and now I'm free to... make more mistakes on the shawl.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Knitting and Tea and Cookies - the online knitting group

When I was moaning the other day about wanting to be in a knitting group, Angela suggested I try making a virtual one. So yesterday, after putting in one virtuous row on my aunt's hat version 3, I set one up on Ravelry.

The hardest part was thinking of a name, and then deciding on a group logo:

But I guess what I came up with was all right, because more people have joined than I have chairs for at home. And already there's the makings of a Valentine tea (and hopefully chocolate) exchange, heh heh heh - so you definitely need to check it out!

If you're not yet a member of Ravelry and want to join in, we'd love to have you - get yourself registered here and come on over.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


My new embroidery books arrived yesterday, plus a knitting book I'd been meaning to get for a while:

The bags perched on top contain my aunt's hat (still unfinished) and my extra tools for said project.

Which do you think will get more attention today?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A sweater mystery

I spent New Year's Day at the museum

(where you can get the best lunches and desserts! not that this is why I go; it's for intellectual pursuits. Really. Because if I eat enough of the carrot cake with cream cheese icing they serve there I will totally be able to pin down the recipe with my brain. Ha - intellectual!)

seeing, among other things, an exhibition of portraits printed in Vanity Fair over the years.

And what I'd like to know is:

Why did Cary Grant let himself be photographed wearing a crewneck pullover with a consistently placed plethora of pills?

They were soft fuzzy pills, not the attached-by-a-thread kind that are so easy to shave off. And they were everywhere, all over the front and sleeves. I'm not talking about halo here. I'm talking about a halo convention - the kind where halo bits hook up with other halo bits and talk shop in the hallways between sessions.

I think it had to be from washing, unless he had just hugged a tree and the bark didn't want to let go (and who could blame it if so? this is Cary Grant we're talking about!*)

That's mystery number one. Mystery number two is, what kind of yarn does that? Straight mohair?

Anyway this is what I will be pondering today as I reknit my aunt's hat. Again.


A link to the photo. You can zoom in on it, and I thought at one point it was herringbone, but when I zoomed more I could say that - nope, just pills on stocking stitch.

Surely it wasn't 100% acrylic?

*maybe he'd just been fending off the embraces of thousands of fans?

Monday, January 4, 2010

My aunt's hat

Last January, my aunt asked me whether I could knit her a hat to go with her new coat, which proved to me an impossible-to-match shade of - mushroom? Not a bad colour, but not a mainstream one either. We eventually found a bulky acrylic that came close enough, and I sat down to sort out the bigger problem of design.

For one thing, it had to not crush her hair. And she doesn't like anything on her face, either - no brim over her forehead. But she didn't want a beret, or at least not the readily available style in felted wool.

I did make the hat, and she wears it - my mum says it's the only hat she's ever seen her wear consistently - but it bugged me that the match wasn't right and that it's acrylic. Wool is just warmer, you know?

So last February, I was thrilled to discover the perfect wool yarn in variegated shades that included the elusive mushroom. And I bought it for her for her birthday, promising her a second hat.

Which I never knit.

So I spent this past weekend on my aunt's hat, which had to be an entirely different design owing to the entirely different nature of the yarn, and the math had me so stumped I've had to rip back twice.

Then - last night - fuelled by chocolate of course - I had the big breakthrough!

And today, I hope to be able to finish My Aunt's Hat. Which she doesn't want, because she loves the one she has.

(you don't think I'm procrastinating on Carol's shawl, do you?)

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Wishing for a knitting group

The last few days, I've been thinking I really need to pull together a knitting group, if only to keep from having to stop people in the street to ask how their current work in progress is going. Yeah, it's a small neighbourhood, so I'm only stopping people I know and who do have a work in progress, but still. It's cold outside!

And there's no local yarn store to organize such a group.

In the summer I ran into a friend who knits and she said there used to be a collection of knitters that rotated around its members' houses, but it disbanded after it got too fussy to do any knitting - snacks and wine, to the point where you weren't so tempted to pick up your work, if only to keep your yarn clean.

It's a testament to how much I wanted a knitting group even then that instead of hearing SNACKS! I heard PEOPLE!

I keep wondering whether I could pull together the half-dozen or so knitters I know in the neighbourhood and persuade them to knit without cookies? Or just with cookies and tea, maybe. If I offered my place, I'd even be motivated to clean the house (the need for which is what usually drives me to invite people over.)

Sadly, I have exactly one chair with good lighting at my house. Do you think people would knit at my dining table? They do that in yarn shops, don't they? It's the only solution I can think of, bar installing more wall fixtures - all the local coffee shops are crowded all the time.

Or maybe I should start a coffee shop of my own to take the overflow?

Nah, that would be a procrastination of epic proportions, and way more distracting than sticky snacks.