Thursday, September 30, 2010

Problem solving

As a kind of low background noise enveloping my everyday activities I am still obsessing about the Soaker socks - or rather, what yarn I could possibly pair with them to serve as the legs, or even to stripe along the whole foot if I can face frogging.

Yesterday I hit a down time in the whole supper making process and decided that even five minutes of spindling was better than nothing. I grabbed the red stuff I bought at the same booth as the boot sock yarn, and which is the same mohair/wool blend, and as I drafted and spun I thought of red skies.

Red sky at night.

Red sunset over blue water.


It's a bit late to decide I should be spinning it at a boot sock weight but if I could pull it off - or somehow work it out by adding stitches to make gauge - it might just look like art.

Anyway I decided to bump spinning the red stuff to the top of the queue (after the BSJ is done) because I won't know for sure until I try.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010


Yesterday while knitting

(not so much of the BSJ but all of what was left of another sample size of my Confectionery Cap, which is finally ready for my technical editor as a result of said BSJ avoidance)

it occurred to me that I would be enormously content if my job were to knit all day while watching Turner Classic Movies. It's not my job, and I've been doing it anyway, and as a result

(but also as a result of an ankle injury a couple of weeks ago I'm trying to see a doctor about this week)

my house is a MESS.

It's kinda making me crazy, but moving around is difficult with my sore ankle and I pretty much get to do one thing a day - groceries, laundry, garbage-taking-outeyness - and rest it for the remainder. What else am I gonna do while resting my ankle except watch movies and knit?

So: movies. Lately it's been a lot of westerns. Oh, who am I kidding? It's a lot of westerns all the time, and a lot of John Wayne swagger versus Jimmy Stewart desperation - has anybody else noticed that as he got older those long arms went all elbow when he gathered up the girl of his choice for a smooch, and also, that out in the dust and sun it was always a wrenching smooch? I grew up Jimmy in a smart suit and black and white film, and the grizzled frantic romancer is still sitting funny for me. I guess it does demonstrate though that in a country where you need to team up to survive and having children is essential to keeping your land, romance is a much more serious business than in cities where smart suits are the norm.

My point is that in addition to the steady diet of westerns, I just started reading Little House on the Prairie

(I grew up with the TV version so I spent my childhood reading time on the Bronte sisters instead)

and boy is there a lot of description about camping out on the route west, with nothing but a wagon and a dog and two horses. Corn cakes assembled and fried in pork fat over a fire, coffee ground and brewed in the open air, washing done in a tub of creek water and laid out over the clean fresh grass to dry...

And not so much as a whiff of knitting. Some mending, some ironing, a lot of tidy. But no knitting


I don't know, guys. If I had to choose between a clean house and a creative house, I'd go with the creative one. I just hope that someday I'll find a happy medium. And in the meantime, it's a good thing movies provide such an easy screen for the Things That Need Vacuuming.

* * * *

BSJ update: I have bits of it on holders now and I think I'm into the last 30 or so rows. If it were portable and I wasn't thinking about sewing something for a small friend's birthday tomorrow, I'd probably be able to finish it today.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Yesterday I woke up with a bizarre and persistent round of vertigo that meant canceling all my plans for the day and staying home. The worst: my fingers had been replaced by wet spaghetti and even if the room had stopped spinning long enough, I couldn't knit! Torture.

Today I feel like somebody has installed a full bathtub or perhaps a small swimming pool in my head, but the room is mostly still and I can knit. So instead of writing which is what I should be doing today, I'm going to work on my BSJ, which looked like this when I put it away on Saturday after a long-awaited and exciting burst of successful effort:

I'm about halfway through the instructions, but all the new stitches I'll be adding in from here on translates to each remaining row taking longer than the ones I've done so far.

Still... I have six hours before my next must-do activity, and one can knit through tissues and tea. Even allowing for the requisite sickbed nap which is probably going to happen whether I like it or not just as soon as I've finished typing this, I should be able to make a big dent in this project.

It's certainly an addictive enough pattern for denting: I get it now, why so many people love knitting it. It's easy and mindless yet with a cliffhanger at the end of every second row that lures you on and on. Truly a feat of engineering, and so cute in red and pink.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Heartbreak socks

I've been avoiding looking at my Soaker socks because I realized I don't have enough yarn to make them more than ankle length - and who wants heavy warm wool/mohair boot socks that are better suited for tennis?

Then yesterday I woke up worrying about them and thought I just had to get it over and done with.

So I knit really really fast the way you do when you think you might run out of yarn and then when it looked like I probably couldn't go any farther I started super stretchy bindyoffing and I thought WOW, I'm going to make it! and then I saw there was one needle I hadn't noticed, with 13 stitches in it, and me with just 10" of yarn to go.

I have not frogged anything yet because it's remotely possible that I'll finish the second sock with perhaps 20" of yarn and be able to borrow the remains to deal with these last few stitches.

It's a sad time. These are bar none the most comfortable socks I've ever had on - super warm and cosy and totally made for me, right down to the shape of the toes, and having spent the rest of the day in my Blueys which I also love and are about an inch longer even, I have to admit the truth: my legs were freezing all day. And at least Blueys are long enough for me to tuck tights right into them on another cold morning when I'm paying attention to such things. The Soakers wouldn't come close.

I've been up and down my stash and apart from some hot pink yarn of identical composition and weight, or the deep blue I used for my Candy Wrapper Scarflet which is just close enough to look awful, I don't have a thing to use to eke out the legs. And even if I buy more of this yarn, the dye lot will be very different as it's all hand done.

I wonder whether I should knit a pair of tubelike things with some slim black yarn - my tights are usually black - and start a new trend of woolly ankle socks slipped over thin fitted legwarmers over tights? Because I still have another skein of boot sock yarn in this weight and I'm dying to knit it up.

(or maybe I should just go back to making hats for a while.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Knitting while walking

Knitting while walking really is the ultimate party trick, or so it would seem by the number of people who've run into me lately and said

MARY! I saw you knitting while you were walking the other day! or

Wow, you can knit while you walk? or, from the more seasoned friend/acquaintance, just

What are you making now?

I guess some people do restrict their knitting to indoor situations but my queue is so long and my obligatory knitting so urgent that I can't afford not to knit if I'm likely to have five minutes to spare, which is why I was so heartbroken about frogging yesterday's baby surprise jacket and the two hours I put into it.

However, as they say, tomorrow is another day. And now that I'm in it, I can fully endorse the truth of that statement:

Another day, another BSJ, and one that looks far more likely to fit my new baby-sized friend. Also it's faster to knit since the stitches are bigger and more likely to zip off the needles. Maybe 30 hours, instead of 50?

(yes, I'm still doomed.)

I am liking this pattern though. The gauge is still tight enough to show off snug even stitches, but it's softer than when I tried it on tiny wee needles, and best of all, it's just knit stitches with the occasional increase or decrease.

for knitting while walking.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

If at first you don't succeed etc.

I'm trying to knit a Baby Surprise Jacket again:

and again, I'm just not sure how this is going to go. (maybe my problem is not socks, about which we will not speak today, but knitting in general?)

I cast on for this one immediately after holding the tiny, adorable baby girl it's intended for, and of course I discovered the obvious - Cascade 200 Superwash knit at a tight gauge in garter stitch isn't remotely soft enough for a tiny adorable baby of any gender.

Having received good advice about blocking it with a little baby shampoo added to the water, I decided to carry on and here is what I've learned:

- it will take me about 50 hours to finish it at the rate I'm going.

- no matter which size you make, it's the same number of stitches and the same amount of time investment.

- if I make it too small, the baby will have outgrown it by the time I have finished.

- if I make it too big, the baby won't use it for a year and I'll have rushed needlessly, to say nothing of the fact that I really wanted her to have something special for this winter.


This is a very tiny baby, did I say that? and even though I seem to have noticed that babies grow just crazy fast, this one is likely to remain on the petite size like her mama and other sibs, so she's likely not to hit the six month size in October.

It looks like the button band is just short of 6" - is that long enough to fit her soonish if I knit like a fiend for the next two weeks? Can I pick up stitches and make it wider, maybe add a frilly bottom border and sleeve cuffs if it's too small? Completely disregarding that the back will be pretty darn narrow if I have to do all that to make it fit?

Or should I give up and find bigger needles and start over?

* * * * * *

That last one - that's the answer.

I mean, my Denial muscles are plenty strong but not always my friend - when I got that jacket off the needles and folded it in I realized it might fit a kitten. So I dug out a nice needle three sizes up and am starting over. Stitches cast on, and - yep, 11 stitches into the first row! I'll be victorious yet, even if it means it's next fall before I'm wearing the Carrot...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Another cliffhanger

What is it, I wonder, with me and socks?

I spent all that time wondering whether my yarn supply would hold out for Man Socks and when they were done, I decided to go back to Me Socks where this isn't likely to be much of an issue because my feet are pretty small. Sensible girl, yes?

But look:

I'm not weighing that little bit of yarn to see whether it's even a third of what I started with, because I am pretty sure it isn't and I don't want to freak out totally while turning this heel.

Speaking of which, I guess I'm more snoozy than usual because every time I sit down to work the math for said heel-turning my eyes glaze over. So I'm just faking it and hoping the numbers work out when I get to the leg.

Two cliffhangers!

Though really I've already ripped back this heel once and I'm still alive and typing.

Today is rainy and I got all my urgent non-knitty work done yesterday so I'm going to sit right down and wrestle this sock into submission... and then look through the stash for something that doesn't scream at the luscious yarn I'm using.

Because frankly, I suspect I'll need a very long contrasting cuff for these babies before I can get them on and into my boots.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Another nice surprise

Perplexity: somebody who was Not Tom knocked on my door with a box in hand with a return address that clearly indicated a publishing house.


But look:

This calendar is the reason I charge for my Candy Wrapper Scarflet - I'd submitted it for consideration and knew that if I just gave it away here, people would be (rightly) annoyed for paying for it there.

Receiving a copy of the calendar means the pattern was accepted, and guess where they put it?

April Fool's!

(except not, because it really is in there.)

There isn't a pattern for every single day because let's face it - most patterns take more than a day's worth of paper to record. Even so, it's a lot of designs for the investment - a lot of really cool ones. I'll be spending a lot of my non-knitting time looking over the options.

Monday, September 20, 2010


This weekend I did a little knitting and a lot of yarny reorganization, which was painful because I could probably have finished a sock in the time I spent doing it. Still, things were getting out of hand in the craft cupboard and even more so on the sewing table where I pile up my works-in-progress. It was time.

It was also time to sort through the piles of said works and decide what I was going to finish in the yarn and needle size selected, and what needed to get frogged in favour of different materials.

As a result of all that effort I have just four projects in progress on the sewing table, and one of them is now done and drying. The other three are
the lattice hat I still have to make other sizes for
the long-suffering Carrot cardi and
the Soaker socks

I just started trying the Baby Surprise Jacket again, but that is living upstairs for now so I can kind of not count it until it's a further along.

See? That leaves me with just four projects underway. Totally do-able. I feel much less overwhelmed. What really lifted the whelming burden though was Trish coming by today to pick up some of the yarn I decided to give away.

From my perspective, this exchange is perfect. It totally alleviates my guilt about not having knit with stuff I like but just can't seem to use, while giving Trish some new yarn she doesn't have to feel guilty about spending a whack of cash on should she decide to overdye it or ignore it for a long time herself.

Trish has a slightly different take and was muttering 'enabler' as she directed the bag out the door. She runs rather short on time and long on queue herself and to be fair, probably didn't need all that yarn and the ideas it produced at this exact moment.

As she and my guilty conscience were leaving, I noticed my mail had arrived and that there was a rather large envelope sticking out from the middle of it: yarn!

Or more specifically, fiber!

It's from Ilona, who had some llama/Jacob blend in her stash she thought I might like, which Trish and I both did very much because MAN is that stuff soft.

Enablers: we're everywhere!

Friday, September 17, 2010

A happy place for yarn

One of my favourite recent yarn purchases was the cashmere blend laceweight my friend Emily dyed when she first started making yarn available, and my absolute favourite part of the Knitter's Fair was spotting Emily's booth there.

Not that it was easy, because so many people were buzzing around it - I recognized Emily herself before I could even make out her sign. On my second pass, it was still squeezing room only.

People are figuring out how awesome Emily is at what she does.

I had to buy some things

even though I already had two bags full of fleece
and I was running late for my ride home
and Emily has a shop on Etsy as well
so it was easy to think of just having a peek and shopping online later.

The roving is called Elephant, and makes me think not of giant grey animals but of snuggly stuffed ones that keep you company on a day when you are home sick and reading something fantastic while wrapped in blankets.

My cousin, on the other hand, sees a rocky beach worn smooth by decades of tides.

Emily has great colour sense, even when she's doing subtle shifts of shade. And her base yarns? whooooaaaa. But there's something warmly nostalgic about the mix of the two that I just love, so that even looking at it I just feel better.

I get the same reaction every time I see the logo she designed.

When I was buying Elephant, I spotted a few of these project bags with her logo printed on the side with sweet flowery fabric handles and linings and just had to have one, so that no matter what I'm knitting or spinning with I can admire it.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

(almost) speechless with Joy

Remember yesterday I said I might have another excitement to share? Well, say hello to my new best friend:

(and excuse me while I dance around the room for a moment.)

It's all very sudden, as is true for most of my irresponsible purchases. I started yesterday in the usual way - ignoring the dishes and flipping through various favourite web sites and blogs - and then I spotted a posting of a little-used spinning wheel for sale at a price significantly lower than retail.

Leaving aside the timing of this, just days after I bought an insane amount of fiber it would take me months of dedicated spindling to get through, it so happens that the model offered, the Ashford Joy with a single treadle, is the exact one I had settled on as the wheel I would buy if I could justify one.

According to my research on this question, here's how you're supposed to decide on a spinning wheel: try out as many wheels as you can because they are all different and some are a better ergonomic fit for you personally or, alternatively, may prevent you from spinning the size of yarn you had in mind, etc. Also, think about what you want to do with it - will you travel with it? will you spin six hours a day making yarn for sale? will it sit out in your living room or be stored when not in use?

My criteria are so limiting, I didn't bother with any of that.

I needed something that's small when in use and smaller when it's tucked away into a closet, ideally something a friend already uses so I can get advice quickly.


Since Kathleen Taylor is the only longtime spinner I know who works regularly on a wheel, and since she happily uses the very compact Ashford Joy with a single treadle, I decided this would (simply have to) be the perfect wheel for me in every way, assuming I ever stumbled across a used one. I would have to go without new yarn and fiber for a long time to spring for new, and I don't quite know whether I could cope with that. Springs might start flying out of my ears or something.

So most of yesterday went to scurrying around the house waiting to hear whether somebody else had leapt on this offer before me, and then figuring out how to get to it to collect it, and then collecting it.

Once I had it I decided I might as well go for broke, more literally than is good for me, and choose some special fiber to celebrate it. And of all the fiber I've spun on the spindle, my favourite has been hand-dyed merino from Fleece Artist, which fortunately my favourite closest LYS, The Naked Sheep, keeps in stock. I love my Soaker socks-in-progress so much I went with a similar colourway.

I'm not spinning with that yet - I'm sticking with some super inexpensive undyed wool it's okay to make mistakes with. And believe me, I will be making them. I still haven't figured out how to get the fiber to twist before it gets onto the bobbin thingy, though after I put the wheel away last night Kathi explained it has something to do with just not letting go of the fiber till it's twisted (why didn't I think of that?)

Okay, so this experiment might possibly go horribly wrong and I might be one of those rare people who haven't got the knack for a wheel. But maybe it won't. And even if I don't get to eat out for two or three months - I've got my own spinning wheel to find out with. Hurrah!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Excitements and and the Knit Bridge

I read a fleeting reference to the Cambridge Knit Bridge on Ravelry just before the Knitter's Fair, and since Cambridge is not so very far away of course I just had to engineer a detour to see it.

Cambridge is one of those towns with a super adorable old part and a hugely expansive new part; the bridge in question is in the old part.

Stage: set.

I have to admit, I welled up when I first caught sight of it. It's pretty moving, seeing that many stitches in one place and thinking about all the people who contributed them.

There were some pretty cool colour combinations and stitches.

And a lot of people were taking pictures - can you blame them?

Other excitements: Tom came by this week. Tom delivers the Canada Post parcels in my neck of the woods so basically if I'm getting really good mail - something too big to fit in the mailbox - I get it from Tom.

This time he brought an unexpected and very heavy box that turned out to contain this:

It's true that any book about hats is going to appeal to me but this particular book has an added bonus:

I still can't quite believe that out of 1000+ hat submissions, mine was selected to be among the top ten and had its pattern included.

(It's worth saying, I think, that there are in fact only ten patterns in this book and the rest is tons of pictures of people's hats. There are a number of Amazon reviews complaining about this fact, and pointing out that one can be equally inspired for free by looking at pictures of hats on Ravelry. It's a fair point, but having done both, and considering that hat patterns tend to run between $4-6 when purchased individually, I would still buy the book. Even if I never knit any of the other 9 patterns, and there are some I'd like to very much, it's just nice to leaf through real pages. Also it's clear a lot of thought went into how these photographs were grouped.)

The bad news: though the pattern in the book is totally workable in any yarn that gives you gauge, the gorgeous stuff I used to make it was a short-run artisanal batch.

The good news: I was able to source very similar colours in a widely available Debbie Bliss yarn of slightly less similar weight.

I know - in these pictures, the colours don't look similar at all. But in person, they are really, really close.

I'm working on some different sizes for this version of the hat, and then I'll ask my technical editor to go over it for errors, and hopefully in the next month or two I'll be able to make it available here.

And now I must go hyperventilate about an entirely different sort of crafty excitement I can hopefully tell you all about tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Super dreamy farm yarn

One of my favourite things about knit shopping is finding tools or fibers or yarn I absolutely love and never knew about before. Last night I was playing with the new stuff from the Knitter's Fair and decided the Knit Bridge can wait, but Stoddart Family Farm can't.

See, I was walking innocently past this very colourful booth making a mental note of the roving that cascaded down a display on one side but mostly blinking madly at the yarn while reminding myself that

I Do Not Need More Yarn

when suddenly I found myself standing in front of said yarn telling Silvia, who has now joined the very select group of my heroes, how beautiful her colours are. And then two magical things occurred:

A/ Silvia explained that she hadn't been happy with the colours she'd been getting from plant dyes - important since I was missing the beginning of the seminar on plant dyeing to drool on Silvia's yarn and was therefore able to stop thinking about having to tear myself away - because she found the boiling process made the yarn less soft. This of course made me touch the yarn, something you will of course realize spelled instant doom, and to note that in fact the yarn was pretty awesomely soft - even with mohair in it. More on this in a moment.

B/ While petting the yarn and listening intently to Silvia's explanation of the solution she's opted for in order to best treat her organic materials in a way that maintains their quality while producing amazing colours, I spotted a label marked 'Boot Sock.' Yes. Sold.

Okay, here's my thing about mohair, which you can skip by just scrolling down to the pictures:

I had an older brother who died when I was fifteen, but until that happened

(and afterward, actually, since he was on a holiday when he died and had mailed a bunch of things he'd bought for us to my parents' place so he wouldn't have to cart them back on the plane and they kept on arriving unannounced in the weeks after his funeral - torture)

he was always coming up with the coolest presents. As you can imagine, they were even more precious after he was gone, and I still have mine. Except for a lacy pale pink mohair scarf he found for me when I was just barely old enough to start appreciating such things.

The thing with mohair is that it can be scratchy. Especially if, being a student buying a present for your small sister, you go for mohair you can afford. And my mohair scarf was completely crazy-making - I mean, beyond itchy. So I loved it because it was grownup and special and Bob had chosen it for me and he was dead, and I hated it because it was so uncomfortable and I never knew how to wear it anyway. Eventually this back and forth got so bad I just sort of lost it once I was a student myself and moving around all the time. But I'm still conflicted about mohair. I react much more strongly to seeing it in a label than I do silk, for example, even though Bob once sent several lengths of patterned silk from China for the women in our family to sew into summer dresses using a long-sleeved pattern we all blindly agreed on.

(which is how I know that silk is super hot in summer, incidentally, and why I don't buy silk summer dresses now unless they are sleeveless.)

Last year I tried knitting with mohair blends and found one I love, Vesper Merino Mohair from Knitterly Things, of course - one of my sources for all things lovable. I used it for my blue Candy Wrapper scarflet and it's not the least bit itchy even on a bare neck. But I thought that was just Julia being gifted, which is probably also a factor, until Saturday.

And now we're back to present-day. You ready for what came home with me? Well, it started with this:

because I couldn't decide between these two colours and eventually realized I didn't have to, and then while Silvia chatted with somebody else I succumbed to this:

which didn't make it to a skein photo because about 10 minutes after I got home I wound it into two balls of equal weight for socks, and now it looks more like this:

Heavier yarn makes a sock go so much faster: I think I am in love.

But I did not stop there. Remember the roving? It's the same fiber content as the yarn, and I decided that these pieces might look really good with that Fair Isle hat I mentioned yesterday:

Last night after some sock time I decided to try out the new spindle, which is why I can tell you that the fiber spins up like a dream and looks like this:

Beautiful, yes? and you can buy it all online. I am totally making a bunch of mohair socks to wear with my boots this winter - the only question is, which colour should choose next?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Why I should never shop alone

Whew! I'm still trying to catch my breath from the Kitchener-Waterloo Knitter's Fair, and also to find places for everything I brought home.

Seriously, I thought I would shop so much less since I wasn't meeting up with Karen and her crew this time - you know, the more eyes you have, the more must-have stuff you spot, right? Not so. It turns out that when I am alone I am even more likely to chat with people I don't already know, and whether it's somebody with a great thing to sell or somebody with a great insight into buying, I am always interested.

Which sort of explains why I went to the Fair hoping to pick up a little more fiber to spin, and came home with this:

I just couldn't help myself.

Let's start in the top left corner with the fiber I spotted immediately after passing and then walking back to a booth selling undyed 100% cashmere fiber for $44 a bag. I know this was a good deal, and if it hadn't been my very first stop of the day I would have gone for it, but at the time I still had self-restraint and remembered the beautiful blue $3 cashmere sweater sitting on my dryer waiting to be unraveled or sewn with. Plus I don't think my spinning skills are really ready for cashmere. Yet.

The point is, when you've walked away from a chance like that and toward Pygora Fiber mixed with just enough merino wool for memory and it feels like heaven and costs in the $25 range, you're going to say Yes Please, immediately. (isn't it beautifully white? And seriously, so soft. I can't wait to get working with it.)

While I was paying for the Pygora, the first lot of door prize winners was announced and guess who was in the mix? Yes! And as one so often hears in such situations, I never ever win things, so it was extra exciting. I chose a gift certificate for The Yarn Source and spent a happy hour browsing my way toward its booth, where I found the colourful bump of fiber across the front of the basket. It's a whopping 250g of Polwarth, and I love these colours, and I got wonderful advice while paying for the part of it that the gift certificate didn't cover:

If I tear it into long strips (and don't break them), then label and bag them such that I start spinning from the same place in every strip, and ply them the same way, I will get self-striping yarn.

I am absolutely going to try this, and if I botch horribly I will still have something beautifully variegated, so it will still be okay.

Here I must pause and point out that while I did walk away from The Yarn Source at this time, I also went back, so as to buy this Tabachek spindle:

I've been wanting a spindle with extra detail on the bottom for better traction when I start it spinning, and this one just feels wonderful. I am really, really happy to have it. By which I mean it is an effort to be typing this right now and not sitting in a pile of fiber with it.

I guess we're going counterclockwise so I will tell you next about the yellow-hued fiber, which blends mostly wool with a little Husky fur. Now, I've read about the whole idea of yarn blended with dog fur but not having a dog myself I have not been overwhelmed by any urgency to try it. Until I visited the Frog Pond Collective's booth, that is, and was shown samples of how dog fur puffs out after blocking.

Let's just say it's pretty. Also, very soft. And also, apparently, incredibly warm. Sold.

One of the last places I visited, because it was the second last booth on my circuit and not because I wasn't looking for it, was Wellington Fibres. If you go to Ontario knitting shows you'll know Wellington - they always have a compelling display of small, nondescript brown boxes with enticingly beautiful clouds of colour peeping out of the top. Of course, not being a spinner, I always just gawked and walked, but now that I know how to work a spindle I really wanted a box of my own. In the end I chose not a box but a ziploc bag of happiness - the exact shade of green I want for the handspun Fair Isle hat I plan to make when I finally come up with enough smooth yarn for it. The label says 'carded wool'; my hand says 'soft'. I don't know when I'll find out what the spindle says, because, um, that is a lot of fiber in that basket.

And it's still not everything! But it's enough for one day, I think. I'll tell you more tomorrow, and maybe even post my pictures of the Knit Bridge. Ha!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Taking this show on the road

It occurred to me last night that perhaps all of these mini-disasters with new projects I want to start are a sign that I should finish some of the ones I have on the needles, so I devised a recovery plan.

Part A: I spent last night working on one I can't write about and it's looking both awesome and nearly done - two equally exciting features don't you find?

Part B: I realized that carting around a huge mitten book with pencil scrawlings in it was holding me back from knitting even a minimum of orphanage mittens this month, and typed up the entire child-sized pattern (plus, um, a me-sized version) in a more portable format. Then I got my next colour combo wound and set up and ready to take with me anywhere and

Ready for the road! (large-sized knitting bag courtesy of tinyhappy.)

Yes, it's true that I have a small bus trip lined up for today, but the big trip is to the Knitter's Fair in Kitchener tomorrow. I cannot wait. I'm hoping to pick up some semi-and/or-solid-dyed merino fiber for spinning, and maybe another midweight spindle that balances well, and maybe some mitten yarn. I don't need any more yarn, of course, but I feel it's important to be open to exciting new colours or fibers, don't you?

And with luck, I'll have a couple of pairs of finished mittens tucked away before I'm back here on Monday.

I'm not sure which colour combo I'll use after this one - I don't want to do two pairs the same to get mixed up at the door on a cold day - and I'm also thinking I'll need to come up with some entirely different yarn for at least one pair, or else scale down the number of stitches, so I can make a variety of sizes. As it is, the size I'm knitting is supposed to fit toddlers and appears to fit much larger-sized children. H'mmmmm.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's all about the yarn

Yesterday I got about half an hour in on my boot socks, waiting for a friend in a peaceful dentist's offices and listening to all the suctioning and drilling I didn't have a date with, and I came to a terrible conclusion:

I don't like making them.

The stitch is okay, but I think it needs something more - maybe some post-knitting embroidery or an extra bit of fancy lacework. The needles are fine, but it is bugging me that the 2x2 ribbing doesn't mesh seamlessly into the leg and worst of all - the fabric I'm getting at this gauge is just not soft. I mean, if I don't like the way it feels in my hands, how will it be on my feet?

I spent the entire half hour reminding myself that when I soak something after knitting, it comes out way softer than when it went in, but by the end of the day I decided to frog them and just put that yarn away, again. It's sad because it's lovely yarn and I know lots of people are crazy for it and go out of their way to buy it, but every time I've tried to use mine in a project I either hate the way the colour muddies the stitch or the degree of give mars the shape or, now, the feel of the fabric.

And the minute I thought 'I've wasted all my scarce knitting time for three days on these socks' I thought , 'why do I keep doing this? I have lots of stashed yarn I know is perfect for things I know I want to make.'

Around about that time I got an e-mail from Twisted Fiber Art to announce the opening of the fall club.

TFA yarn, whoa. The only reason I don't knit with that part of my stash is that it was expensive to get into Canada and I don't want to blow it on anything but the most perfect project - also, just touching it is a joy. I used Playful for my Lazy Day patterns and I have the remains of those skeins plus two big skeins of self-striping that look like this. I went to the stash to look at it again and realized I also have a skein of matching semisolid for heels and toes - yep, people make socks with this stuff. I guess I hadn't started knitting socks at the time I bought it and now that I do knit them - do I dare?

I mean, I do have the right pattern book for that now. But - socks? Would I get to show them off enough of the year to justify that? Shouldn't I hold out for another shawl thingy?

I didn't get anywhere near all of that mulling when I opened that e-mail, though. I just went straight to the sign-up page and bought three months of surprise roving fun. I spent July spinning a lot of Lively, and I loved every minute. Plus, I missed the cutoff date for the fall Biscotte club and I had to fill the hole in my heart somehow, right?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

September knitalong

September is officially Hand Knits month over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies - as in, knits to keep your hands warm. We've got mitts and fingerless gloves and I wouldn't be surprised to see some gloves pop up over the course of this knitalong, and hopefully they won't be mine because I can't see finding time for all those fingers.

If I were going to do gloves I would go for Julia Mueller's Knotty Gloves. Tammy made a pair and they are so gorgeous. As are Julia's Chimera fingerless gloves. I love the idea of layering gloves, but that's to be expected since I'm Canadian, and it does get chilly here from time to time.

Other knits in progress (or recently knit and tempting me - I'm looking at you, Paula McKeever's Cafe au Lait Mitts): Koolhaas Mitts by Meghan Coakley, and The Vicar's Fields Mitts by Karina Westermann.

I'm averting my eyes from those though, because it's more urgent that I get the charity mittens done. And look! It only took an hour yesterday to finish both thumbs on my first pair:

Interestingly, though I was certain I'd knit the hands with the white held in back and the blue in front during August's mitten obsession, it seems I did the reverse, and boy can you tell. If you think it looks like a trick of the light here, check out the inside:

Yep, it really does matter which yarn is close to the needles in stranded knitting and which yarn is far. Fortunately I quite like the way this looks, because I wouldn't want to be frogging any more of these mittens over a colour issue.

Which is not to say I won't be frogging these thumbs anyway: when I tried them on a passing child-sized person, they proved to be too short. Gah!

Did all this tragedy help you recover from the cuteness of the mitten links? If not, feel free to join in at KTC - there's a chat thread all set up and waiting for you.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting the boot

I've decided to resolve my gift-sock crisis by frogging the Slippys and ignoring the yarn for a few days in favour of a really simple sock that meets my current criteria:


Of course, 'fast' is relative when you factor in the entire evening I spent poring over Barbara Walker's Treasury of Knitting Patterns looking for something that would be just interesting enough to keep me going but sufficiently mindless to knit without looking or checking my notes.

And after all that I still didn't manage to match up the ribbing with the leg stitch in a satisfying way (to say nothing of the fact that eyelets are probably not going to be warm in January.)

Still, I think this may be a good use of the Tanis Fiber Arts aran weight yarn (colourway: stormy) I bought for a sweater and then changed my mind about:

I know, that's not much to show for a whole long weekend's worth of knitting but like a cottager closing up for the winter, Labour Day weekend is when I switch my brain from lazy summer days to busy productive fall ones - and the house has to follow suit. There was laundry and shopping and harvesting and meal planning and much clearing-out of freezer in place of knitting.

However, I did make a list of all my little knitting jobs as part of the whole organizational overhaul and there are quite a few. In fact, I think I wanted to have all the charity mittens done by mid-September, to say nothing of the mittens I wanted to knit for myself, and they didn't even make it onto the list.

There are some patterns to proof and get photographs for and post for free fall fun, and some still-unfinished things I can't talk about yet, and some new ideas to resist until I've cleared mental space for them, and also:

the carrot cardi! Poor neglected thing, it's getting all wrinkled in its bag waiting for me to get moving on it.

But in the meantime I was very glad to have these socks to take along with me for today's haircut, and I'm sure I will enjoy them just as much tomorrow waiting for a friend to have her teeth seen to.

Though really, anything is pleasant for passing the time in a dentist's office when it's somebody else in the chair, isn't it.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Cute as a monkey?

I just looked through my Ravelry 'projects' history and apparently the last four things I've made (and can share images of) have been socks. Clearly socks have become my go-to recreational project, in spite of the eyestrain-in-car problem.

Having established that, I just dug out a nice Vesper stripey from the Sock Club that I divided into two balls and started socks with sometime last winter. Looking at the two non-matchy socks I recall that I was experimenting with different stitches.

One definitely doesn't work and I've frogged it back to the 63-st ribbing.

The other I'm kinda on the fence for.

I like having a chance to draw the colour from one stripe into another, and it's super simple to knit which makes it perfect for in-car work, and because it's a slipped stitch pattern I'd pretty much have to go to plain stocking stitch for the foot - don't want to go pulling up the length on the top of the foot compared to the sole, right? - which meets my desire for super insanely mindless sock knitting.

But in the back of my mind I saw these stitches just as an experiment - really, I always intended to make another pair of Monkeys with this (as they might, um, be not for me, and should therefore be special.) If you just saw this stitch on its own it might be all right, but... compared to a Monkey? Definitely not as cute. Still - fun knit, and already well underway, and more informal than Monkeys, which would probably suit Not Me's sock-inclined shoes a bit better.

We should probably disregard the fact that Monkeys are 64 sts and would require me to frog back to the cast on. (or can I regard that?)

So... what do you think? Monkeys or Slippys?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Man Socks complete!


Yes, you can tell.

But at least the subsidizing of not-quite-enough original yarn is in the toe area rather than the ankle, and it could look a lot worse - I know because this is the version that didn't get ripped out and reknit. And I think I do prefer this to the notion of finishing both toes in dark blue.

(Especially since that means I don't have to frog said toes and knit them over again.)


Socks are done, and... there's not really much on the needles now.

Which is freeeeing... and... sorta crazy-making because now all my sock needles are free too and I want to have something on them, gah!

I resisted putting anything on them last night, and instead started knitting another mystery project in beautiful yarn that I'm very excited about and I do have the Carrot cardi to get going on of course and another size of another mystery-ish thing and the adapted mystery knitalong idea and I think there's something else in there too...

Oh, right! the orphanage mittens and the thumbs remaining on the two I have knit to date.

So I guess I do have a lot to compensate for the loss of these two sock projects I've been carting around for the last three months.

Still feels odd though. Maybe I'll feel better after a little lunch?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

So close, and yet - no

I really thought I was going to pull through with Man Socks last night in time for a successful finish to the August Sockalong. My goals were to finish the very vari socks (check) and Man Socks (more on that in a moment) and start a new pair (ditto.) Overall I'm pretty happy with what I did get done, especially since I was able to snag a stand-in Man to model the one completed sock:

The big thing for me about Man Socks - really, with any gift sock - is that you can't try it on the person they're meant for. At least with a Girl Sock I can estimate how much bigger or smaller the recipient's foot is than mine, so I can try on myself as I go. But Man is a full size bigger than any stand-in Men I trusted for trying on practise, and how much bigger is a full size?

The smaller but perhaps more significant thing is the yardage required. My skein of Felix from Biscotte et Cie was probably going to be enough for a pair of Man Socks - but Man has a wide foot as well as a larger size so I wasn't absolutely sure. Another time I would plan ahead and do cuffs and toes in a contrasting colour, but I didn't think of it early enough with these, and so the whole experience has been one of breath-holding panic.

I knit a 7" leg, the least I felt I could get away with, and when I finished the toe of Sock #1 above, watching the yarn dwindle down to almost nothing as I went along, I ended up with exactly 16 inches to spare. Yes! And they are a little too long for Stand-In Man. Bodes well for a happy Christmas delivery.

As you can imagine, I felt pretty good launching into the toe of #2 after we established all that, but... the yardage on that half of the skein proved to be a bit less, and I had to think of a fix.

Which is: ripping back toward the beginning of the toe and alternating between the actual yarn and my backup Felix - same weight, similar dye lot, but a straight blue that is in places quite a bit darker than the blue in the original yarn. The idea is to eke out the main sock yarn enough for a subtle effect that might not even be noticeable.

I can see from this tiny bit though that the straight blue is just crazy dark; I'm going to have to go to blue every two or three rows instead of every other. So I'll have to rip back a bit further still if I'm to make it to the end and really blend the colours.

And that my friends is why I did not finish Man Socks last night.

But I did pick out another colour and pattern for the next socks. See, I have another skein of Biscotte in snowflake blues and whites that are just perfect for Veronik Avery's Staccato Socks. And then I think I'm going to try a pair of Bob Socks in the dark blue, with red cuffs and toes and heels from my remaining skein of Felix. Because I'm telling you, that stuff is so soft, it's bliss!