Friday, April 30, 2010

Baby Surprise KAL starts tomorrow!

Tomorrow is big for three reasons:

It's Mayday,

I will be driving on the busiest highway in North America (thank you Carol for pointing that out) with my original driving instructor in my own car, and

It's the start of the Baby Surprise Jacket knitalong!

Here is the yarn I'm going to be casting on as soon as my hands stop shaking post-driving lesson:

It may be a mistake, using this Tanis Fiber Arts Aran-weight yarn ('Stormy'). The pattern calls for 5 or 6 stitches per inch, and I am getting 4, according to the gauge swatch I knit last year with needles whose size I didn't bother to note at the time, but which have produced a significantly snug enough fabric to make me not want to go down another two.

Apparently fewer stitches per inch will not ruin the proportions but merely produce a larger jacket; possibly in this case fit for a five-year-old.

I do actually have a baby in mind for this project - a little boy who will be about 6 months along when the weather starts to get nippy enough again to need a jacket. But I don't want to make a 6 month size; I want something he can wear when he's toddling and getting into the dirt and needing his sweater washed a lot (it's superwash wool.)

So maybe this is a good choice after all - a good dark blue that hides the inevitable stains, and can be brightened up with buttons. I know, I know, I can stripe it, but I'm reluctant to add to my tails-running-in-of task. And I don't really think the blue in that swatch up there is enough of a contrast to make that worth while, do you?

Bonus thought: if it takes me a year to finish it, it will still fit him, even though it will be rather late to go giving a new-baby gift.

But back to business. If you want to join in on the knitalong, feel free to join us at Ravelry, code name Knitting and Tea and Cookies. Or just watch me flail along right here!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Jump around jump around jump around

You know what I really like about Soak wash? The way you can put your socks into a tub of it and then sit down for 15 minutes to knit and then about 2 hours later walk past said tub and remember you put them there and they're still okay.

* * *

I have been knitting Bluey toes: three times so far. I've decided that my foot is simply not designed for anatomically correct socks, because no matter how long I make the foot, the toe box is just too short. Refrogging to commence shortly, with a fresh toe to follow.

* * *

I bought myself a ball winder. Finally!

It's a Lacis, in part because I was too cheap to spring for the Royal, in part because when Trish very generously loaned me her Royal to prepare for Big Project Small Needles I could never find a table with the right kind of edge to screw it onto (all of mine are curved and impossible) and it kept popping off.

Of course, when I got the Lacis out of the box, I couldn't get the clamp open wide enough for any table at all. Then I tried an old IKEA filing cabinet and, Shazam! a new ball winding layout was born.

Too bad I can't watch TV from here, but - not, because when I get to winding too fast or just not watching generally, the yarn gets into the gears (exposed in the Lacis, sensibly not exposed in the Royal) and then I have to dismantle it all and wriggle the strands out again.

This is sufficiently harrowing to ensure that Trish will not be asking to try out my Lacis. Though she could, because after I finally got it set up on the IKEA cabiniet, the clamp somehow released itself and will now fit all the other tables and presumably hers as well. If I do choose to try another of them, I can at least guarantee it will stay in place... as will the Royal I will be buying as soon as I've pulled out enough hair with this one, because I understand they now have the same kind of clip as this Lacis.

* * *

I really wanted to knit a pair of yoga socks for a silent auction fundraiser in my neighbourhood, to go with the yoga sessions that somebody else donated.

It's on Friday.

I have most of one sock so far, and the taxes (also due Friday, but with a rather more compelling consequence if missed) are still not done, to say nothing of a pressing need for daily driving practise.

So I will make yoga socks for next year's fundraiser instead, I hope, and try to finish the Blueys instead.

* * *

I have decided to accept that I have to use 2.0mm needles for socks so as to have a really tight and comfy-underfoot gauge in spite of my strangely relaxed knitting style. So I have swatched my primary sock yarns to get the number of stitches per inch and made use of Ravelry's advanced pattern search to find sock patterns with said stitch count.

I found three I like enough even to try with my self-stripeys. Is there anything Ravelry can't do?

(yes: drive for me and magically pass my fast-approaching road test.)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Man socks

Tom - the friend who delivers all my Canada Post parcels - dropped by this week with a little box of vintage dishes and a squishy envelope from Biscotte & Cie with yarn in it.

I ordered this deliciousness - Felix, mostly merino wool with a little nylon - to make a Christmas present for the only guy on my list who is remotely open to handknit socks, unless you count Bob, whom I met at about 6 months of age (me; he was just new) and am still best friends with. I don't exchange Christmas presents with him these days but he would totally love socks I made him... possibly not for his August birthday though, because what are the odds of my being ready in time for that?

Okay, now I want to knit socks for Bob too. I am a glutton for punishment in the form of socks for everybody but myself.

And now back to said Guy Friend. How on earth do I choose? I mean, look at these colours.

Okay, here's how I choose. After all the messed-up patterns I've done lately, I totally need to go with the variegated yarn and knit something super plain and not-mess-up-able that shows it all off.

and then maybe I can knit something with cables for Bob in the denim.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Time for a carrot

I am desperately grateful for my Carrot cardi, which I finally got started on this weekend. It's such a beautiful color:

and it's garter stitch, which means I can knit it without looking. Yes, there was a slight hitch with the pattern that would have been alleviated by working out in advance exactly how many ridges I should count on either side before each decrease and increase, but I didn't have comfort food handy - chocolate croissant for choice - to take the place of the needles until after I messed up the decreases for the waist.

No matter, I will adjust in the waist area so the overall length is right, and hopefully I won't mess up the increases.

Meanwhile, I can knit it while I'm reading,

or even walking, which I did all the way home from the gym yesterday (except when crossing the most frequently fatal intersection in the city.)

In fact if I don't magically get calm about the latest driving angst, such that I can bring myself to let it out of my shaking hands, I might have the whole thing knit in a couple of weeks. I wonder if it will be cold enough out to wear it, the day of my test?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Blueys, meet disaster

I'm still not finished the Big Project (there's some late trim to add), but while it was drying I snuck off and spent some time with the Bluey twins and made a lot of headway.

Aren't they gorgeous? That blue - all those subtle shade shifts of it - and yes, I did mess up the odd twisted stitch, but still, so pretty and encircley and opposite in wave shapings. And

are you noticing this???

are you taking another look????

(hint: the left sock. seriously.)

When did I set up for the heels on these things - two months ago? All this time and I didn't notice I'd set both up to be the right sock, for the simple reason that I was so proud of myself for following the left and right sock charts for the wave pattern.


I swear, the more socks I knit the more I despair of ever getting a pair right. I decided not to rip these out though. They fit and they are comfortable and they can be fraternal twins and I will still love them. I think I'm going back to a super basic sock recipe next time, though.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Simply knitting

I treated myself to the spring issue of Knit Simple last night, after spending a lot of time in my car doing things like backing repeatedly into a curb during a series of disastrous parallel parks.

This is just a nice magazine, don't you find? And - this is rare for me because I get so caught up in working out my own designs - I think I might knit some of these patterns instead of just enjoying looking at them.

I could really use a little something like this, for example. Not for summer probably, but in cooler weather to throw over a long sleeved T like a bright little vest.

This cardi though - I would totally use this in summer. Bit late to knit it for this year, but for next? Perfect.

And check out these hearts. I am particularly fond of #11 by Marni Faris, the one with the stickie-outie ruffle, which is giving me ideas. Oh dear. Just when I wanted to knit other people's patterns!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Guess what I just did?

heh heh heh.

Of course, a soggy, adult-sized sweater needs space to dry - space and time, which is to say, horizontal space you don't need for a long time. Since the first best local candidate for this duty is in a virtually unheated, unsunny room, Big Project Small Needles is now stretched across four blocking squares on top of my bed.

And no sooner did I get everything patted into place than I decided I should really grab some nap time before my driving lesson this afternoon, what with staying up late to finish running in ends.

Translation: Big Project got the bed, and I get the unheated dark room, and I am so happy to have it done I don't see anything wrong with this picture at all.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Knitting as self-care

Last night was my monthly support group meeting for the Very Very Stressed (easiest explanation) and because I have to take a road test soon for my driver's license I decided to drive the 8 blocks and practise street parking and driving home again in the dark. I think it was when I realized - well before I left home, thankfully - I had forgotten how to turn on the headlights on my car that I started to get Very Very Stressed.

The driving went completely without incident except that I decided first to street park 3 blocks away, and then thought I could do better and went for 2 blocks away, and then kicked myself when there was a perfectly good spot 1 block away, but by then I was already late from hunting up the headlights so it was just as well I didn't go back to grab the closer spot.

Knitting saves lives: I was actually shaking when I slumped into my chair and pulled out the Blueys to knit a few stitches. The lady next to me asked about my knitting and I said it's calming and she said she's been knitting a scarf but doesn't know how to cast off so she can't finish it.

Naturally, I showed her immediately how to knit two stitches, then pick up the first one and pull it over the second - except I couldn't, because I'm knitting at such a tight gauge and the Bluey yarn, being less elastic than the average wool, wasn't having any.

Stress! and then I realized I can always Kitchener Stitch the toe. And then we discussed my giving a knitting workshop for the group in a future meeting.

Oh Blueys, I love you so. Now if I could just figure out a way to knit them at stop lights during my driving test, I would hardly be stressed at all.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sock maintenance

It's such a good idea to save up socks until you have enough to justify doing the laundry, unless you only have four pairs to start with:

Because then, instead of looking down at colour, stripes, beads, and general good cheer, you may find yourself blending into the ground entirely:

To which I say,


(and also: time to knit more socks!)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Free verse from a (n almost) free knitter

In a car (as a passenger)

I cast off the last knit stitch

of a Really Big Project

knit on Really Small Needles

and now I am tending to

the ends of strings, weaving them

into the fabric they were left out of

until now.

When it is done I will send it away

along with the hours I lived and breathed it

and it will be my turn to be left out

forever after.

But I will have pictures!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Life without knitting

Folks, the world as I know it is soon to come to a crashing halt, to be replaced by 7 weeks of weirdness (maybe less, hopefully not more.)

See, for the past year and a half or so I have neglected everything so I can knit - if I get an hour or three in the middle of the day I don't absolutely have to do 16 other things, I knit. I knit all evening. I knit for a few minutes before dashing out the door in the morning, if I can. Sometimes I take a break and sew for a day or two, but I'm always making something. And even when I'm not, I'm working out some design in my head.

What has suffered: housekeeping, of course, and gardening, and exercise, and cooking (but not eating, since I am adept at finding snackables that don't make your hands all gummy). And writing fiction, which is where - in the big picture - my energy usually goes.

But there's this other little problem with the big Stop! sign planted firmly on June 4, 2010, and all my knitting time will have to be set aside partly to prepare myself for it, and partly to take care of whatever urgent things I would normally be taking care of during said preparation time.

I'll be lucky if I get an hour a day to knit. And I have a terrible feeling that just won't be enough!

Meanwhile, I'm going to enjoy every last stitch of Big Project Small Needles and savour every moment of the Baby Surprise Jacket knitalong (May 1 start). I only hope I get to finish my blue socks in there someplace.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Nearly a sweater

Ohhhh, so close! I figure there's another 10 hours left in Big Project Small Needles, mostly because I'm so slow at running in ends and - bonus! - I'm learning some more new techniques in these last finishing stages.

In fact, I bet I've learned more knitting this project than I would have in any workshop. It's been a really rewarding experience and I can highly recommend this pattern when the actual book comes out.

But to get specific: yes, all the individual pieces are knit and stitched together. I'm just doing the finishing up now, extra bits that are knit on after the assemblage, and those ends, and so forth. Because I don't want to get too specific about the finishing itself I will just say I'm about this far along:

Isn't that just agony, being so nearly done? I'm hoping to run in the last end before the end of Friday so I can block it on Saturday. I might even do a rare Saturday posting if that's the case. I mean, you gotta celebrate a thing like that!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


My friend Trish and I have been plotting about knitting magazines.

Specifically, knitting magazine subscriptions, as in: let's accept our addiction and save money for yarn by starting some.

For example, Interweave Knits? Totally need that turning up in the mail every season. Here are some other contenders:

Vogue Knitting

Knitter's Magazine


Debbie Bliss


Cloth Paper Scissors
(okay, this isn't a knitting magazine, but it's so cool)

Piecework Magazine

Yarn Forward

Verena Knitting

What am I forgetting here? I hope nothing, because choosing one or two out of all that would be tough. And I for one have negative space available for magazines, much as I want them anyway. (it's true isn't it, that you can stack them into end tables and nightstands?)

While I'm at it, can I mention the gorgeousness that comes out of Classic Elite Yarns headquarters? No subscription required.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Knitting the blue(y)s

It's official: big project small needles is no longer portable.

So today I brought along my blueys to knit in the coffeeshop, and reflected on just how badly you can muck up a pattern and still have something that looks good.

Well, obviously this isn't a very inspiring picture - it's hard to photograph the start of a gusset when the sock is on three needles! - but I can assure you that even though the river effect on my Kalajoki sock is not exactly true to the chart I was supposed to be following, and even though the other sock is sure to deviate in some way or six from this one, it's still a gorgeous piece of fabric.

A gorgeous and seriously warm piece of fabric. I'm knitting at a tighter gauge than usual and the yarn is heavier than my normal sock choice; given the warmness of this spring, if I don't finish them soon I'm not going to get away with wearing them till next fall. So I'm going to try to finish them soon. You know, in all my free time.

Monday, April 12, 2010


For most of the time I've been working away on Big Project Small Needles, I've had a carrot dangling in front of me: yarn and a dream pattern for a sweater I get to keep.


Yesterday, to celebrate reaching a Big Milestone in the Big Project, I swatched for the carrot recipe and guess what?

I'm going to need exactly the same size needles as I'm using for Kathi's sweater.

That's right.

To reward myself for finishing the biggest project on the smallest needles I have ever done in combination, I have lined up another Big Project Small Needles. And this time it's straight garter stitch, with no unfolding colourwork to lure me into the next row.


Still... straight garter stitch with no colour changes: I can knit it while walking or sitting in the dark, so maybe it will go almost as fast as Kathi's did?

Friday, April 9, 2010

In which I revisit an old friend

One thing about Ravelry: once you upload them, you'll never forget your unfinished projects. Especially if you post a really nice picture of them.

My only current unfinished item is the Blueys - aka my Kalajoki socks - and the picture sitting on my Ravelry page is the one you'll see here. Every time I look at that picture I melt a little. And I have not infrequently wished I finished them already so I could be wearing them, because this is prime sock weather we're having right now.

All of which is to say that last night, when I was too tired to knit another stitch of the Big Project, I didn't crawl to bed: I crawled to the sofa with Bluey 1 and Bluey 2.

It was so nice to touch them again. I knit a little on each to reconnect with where I'd left off, and then I knit rather a lot on one, marveling at how many rows you can get done in the time when you're knitting for a foot instead of an arm or a torso.

And then I ripped out all of it when I realized I'd made an error back at the start.

And then I kicked myself when I realized it hadn't been an error after all, but that I'd just put one in.

And then I decided that it doesn't matter because in making the new problem I'd also had the opportunity to fix a different problem that was real and not just my imagination, and the new problem isn't really a dealbreaker.

And then I accepted that I am going to mess up the chart for these socks no matter what I do, but that as long as they fit in the end I can just enjoy working with this yarn.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Running post today, as in: me, running to the TV sofa to finish the last few rows of the steeked piece of the Big Project. Yes!

No! I'm not done, but I'm getting close enough to want to get steeking out of the way. How close?

It's really coming along, isn't it. All last week I carted one piece or another with me wherever I went, knitting in the car with the chart proppy-uppy thing perched on my knees, knitting in the coffeeshop during a half hour gap between appointments, knitting in the kitchen while waiting for water to boil, you name it. And all those little bits added up.

Today features blocks of time that are perfect for the sweaty-palmed concentration I'll require to cut my first steek, and because the stars won't align in that way again until Sunday, I've decided to knit those last few rows of the body, then sew and cut open the steeks - maybe even baste them prettily shut and do some other finishing bits - before I go back to sleeve #2.

And I'm going to live blog the experience. If all goes well I'll start stitching around 10am my time, it being 7:40 right now - check back for updates if you like!

10:30 am update:

I am still knitting. Seriously, how can I misjudge my speed so badly? Two more rows to go (one of them a castoff, whoo hoooo!) and then I have to dash for a bit, so I'm going to do the steek this afternoon around 1pm my time. After that, I am totally meditating over this speed knitting technique.

1:10 pm

Okay, I'm sitting at my sewing machine. It's a beautiful old 1940s Singer, jet black with gold filigree trim and not one ounce of zizag stitch ability, which is apparently what you want for a steek. However, it does go backwards and forwards and you can adjust the stitch length, so I'm going to be hopeful. Usually my stitches are '8' long, unless I'm basting ('6') or really confident and sewing something that will see heavy use ('10'). So I'm going to try '15' and see how that goes.

I'm testing first on the swatch I made before I started on all this adventuring. Isn't Kathi clever for suggesting I put a steek into the swatch?

1:15 pm

Yep, '15' looks good. I can tell because I accidentally stitched over one of the tails and it's not slipping free. Thank goodness this is just the swatch. And now, scissors!!! Bwah ha ha ha ha.

1:20 pm

Wow, Kathi wasn't kidding about steeks being easy. I just snipped through the center stitch (being careful to spare that tail, which still isn't budging) and no matter how hard I pull all I can get loose are the halves of that one stitch down the middle.

Just in case though I'm glad I stitched two rows for each side of the cut - one down each side of the relevant stitch column. And now that I'm looking at it (sorry not to be able to post pictures but this is supposed to be Highly Confidential dontcha know) I'm thinking I should find some thread to match the yarn so the finishing is prettier. I'm going to think about this over some Easter chocolate I brought to the sewing machine in case of crisis. Back soon!

1:30 pm

Looks like I have one thread that looks nice with all the colours in the sweater, but I don't have enough for all the steek coverage plus the bobbin thread. I think I'll pretend plain white is best, specifically because it will show on the wrong side if you push apart the wool stitches that will hold it in place on the wrong side.

And now to give the piece one last going-over to make sure everything really is as it should be, because I'm pretty sure that running this '15' stitch is just as final as cutting.

1:40 pm

Yep, ready to go. This will take a while because there is a lot of territory to cover, but I'll be back before snipping.

1:50 pm

Mild panic (okay, heart-stopping panic) as I realized I got off course and stitched down either side of a section of the part I'm actually cutting. Then I realized - I'm cutting it! It's not like I got off course and stitched over something that will show. Whew. (and note to self: make sure not to stitch over something that will actually show.)

2:25 pm

Can you believe it took me that long to stitch steeks? Like I needed more justification for treating myself to a new machine... but that's another angst for another live blog.

So, just about 3/4 of the way through I realized I was treating the even-numbered steek stitches as though they are odds, with one column running down the middle and the machine stitching down either side of it. Not so! I should be snipping between two stitches, not through the middle of one. So I'm going to go find some more chocolate while I wait to hear back from Kathi whether this matters.

2:35 pm

... and apparently it doesn't matter, and I've now refueled with two cookies, so brace yourself, I'm cutting this sweater!

2:45 pm

Wow! It's cut and it's not unraveling a bit. and you know what is the most awesome part? Lying it out on the table with the wrong side up and admiring the expanse. You could wear this thing inside out and it would still be gorgeous.

Thanks for seeing me through this, folks! I've appreciated your company and wish I could stay, but I've gotta get back out into the rain for another errand before I can comfy back up with the one sleeve that remains to be knit. Hope you all have a wonderful rest of the day.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

When sock yarn is glue

It's a year now since I first joined the Vesper Sock Club at Knitterly Things, which means I have received 12 skeins of sock yarn. (we're not counting the other great sock stuff I got from the Biscotte & Cie club, 'kay?)

And in that year I have knit 4 pairs of socks, 3 of them from Vesper sock yarn.

Which leaves me with... 9 skeins? Of which two are slightly heavier solids I could use for shawls or scarves? Okay, 7 skeins. Which, at my current rate, would keep me socking for just over two years.

Clearly I could skip a season with the sock club now. I mean, I'm going to be swimming in sock yarn soon, right?

Right. Good decision: I will skip a season with the sock club.

At some point. Because yesterday this arrived:

and I went straight to the computer and renewed for spring. Backbone like a wet noodle, that's what I've got.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

One warm arm

I'm not going to do a proper Big Project update today, mostly because I am so far behind on it now I don't have time to type, breathe, or eat chocolate (though I'm doing the latter two anyway, as I pretty much have to, to live)


I finished a sleeve last night!

I cast off and everything!

It's done!

And that leaves I think another 9 hours of knitting.

(which doesn't count the finishing.)

Cue the suspense music while I dare to consider the possibility of

finishing this week...

Monday, April 5, 2010

Meet Zinzaabub and Scribbles

Some small friends named the new chicks I knit last week with a pattern from Cheezombie:

That's Scribbles there on the left, and Zinzaabub on the right.

It took me a little over three hours to knit each of them, plus eye-embroidery time. It's really, really hard to embroider two eyes and make them look the same, at least for me. Total project time, including most of one extra chick in the wrong needle size: 9.5 hours.

The pattern is very neatly designed, with no sewing. Technically, you could embellish the wings, but the shaping creates enough of wing effect that you can do without that extra step if you run out of time or panic about much you haven't worked on a Big Project with a Hard Deadline. And what's not to love about those tails?

Plus, they look so cute perched.

If I knit more chicks, I'll do them in wool - I prefer yarn with some give, which cotton does not have, and I'm noticing now too that in spite of all the time I spent running in ends there is a short string sticking out of Zinzaabub's right leg and another on Scribbles' beak. Cotton fibres don't grab on and keep hold, you know?

But the chicks do. I was panicking trying to get their eyes on faster than they were taking on personalities. I just love them.

And I think they love each other, too!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter chicks

The chicks are enjoying Easter - hope you are too!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Seaweed never looked so good

I've been wanting to treat myself to a seacell/silk blend for a loooong time, and guess what was in this morning's sock club pouch from Biscotte & Cie?

It's been saying 'shawl' to me since I first peeped into the pouch, so imagine my delight: the pattern that goes with it is a perfectly gorgeous long summer scarf.

Honestly, Louise puts so much thought and planning into her club! What a lift to start each of three months with such a nice surprise - no (April) fooling.