Monday, February 28, 2011

Existential knitting crisis

Ever since I opened the first bank account where I had to give my job occupation and said 'writer', I've been pretty clear about what defines me as a working person. Still - spending the last week or so knitting up a sample for an idea that was accepted for publication and working up swatches for two other ideas - I kinda wondered.  Designing patterns is definitely a form of writing, and it's not as though I wasn't knitting almost as soon as I was writing, back in my teens. 

It is a lot of work though.  Even patterns I think will be easy when I first get ideas for them: working them out, oiling the gears, smoothing the edges, dropping details that overpower the whole, writing it all up in the clearest way possible - ouch.  It takes hours.  It almost makes me forget you can spend the same number of hours sweating over a single passage in a story. 

Makes me wonder, too, how designers who do seriously big projects for a variety of magazines and yarn companies, producing maybe 10 sweaters in a year plus as many skirts/coats/shawls/socks, pull it it off?

Enter The Designer's Studio, a blog wherein Faina Goberstein undertakes to interview a whole ton of knit designers. I spent a fair while there the other night and here is what I learned:

An awful lot of high-producing designers tend not to spin yarn, or dye wool.  There isn't time; they have to focus. They knit on planes and their knitting groups don't necessarily meet in the same little place a few blocks from home every Tuesday (or if they do, they aren't always with them) because they are traveling all the time giving workshops.  Yep, they teach.  And like Kathi, who comes up with the cutest designs for her classes, they tailor little projects to showcase the particular skill they are covering. 

Little projects that, like my little designs, surely take hours to work out.

Okay, so enter me again, not much of a flier and feeling like I'm already doing as much on the knitting front as I can get away with, and recognizing I need to cut back a bit at least while things are as unsettled and heavy in the time demands department as they happen to be right now, requiring me to be a little less wedded to the sofa. 

What I decided: I gotta stop getting excited every time I see a call-for-submissions I can swatch for.  Yes, it's wonderful to be able to come up with an idea that somebody might actually take (this is so much rarer in fiction-writing, I still can't quite get over it.)  Yes, knitting's a fabulous creative outlet with a lot of assets, including mobility and the freedom to hold a conversation while working, that fiction just does not offer.  But it's hours of work with a deadline attached and people counting on you.  Gotta stop.

Yep, gonna be sensible, I thought: after these swatches go into the mail: taking a break.

And the next morning I woke up with an idea for a really fantastic vest literally knitting itself together in the very front of my mind (without actual needles, oddly) just like I used to find short stories coming together when the words were flowing. 

And the next day?  An idea for a pillow I really want to have.

So now I gotta rethink the whole 'sensible' thing and drop something else from the schedule.  Like cleaning, maybe?  Or laundry?

Friday, February 25, 2011

In (and on) the bag

I'm still a bit wobbly today after yesterday's adventures, but I'm hoping to knit today.  Last night I got in about 76 stitches on a pair of socks before thinking: why?  and letting my arms crash back down to the blanket.  Perhaps I'll do better than 76 this morning. 

There is room for more than that, as you can see:

Yep, I'm hoping the third time's a charm with these guys, even if this is actually the fourth - I've lost count of how often I've frogged them, now.  The one in the knitting bag is about as far along, both right up to the gusset and feeling super comfy, not a bit too tight and hopefully not too long.  It's snowing again as I type so if I'm very lucky and finish them this time, I might actually get to enjoy them in all their mohairy warmth before we start to see spring.

But let's talk for a moment about the knitting bag, the first I bought from tinyhappy.  At the time, I didn't care what it looked like - I just really wanted one of Melissa's bags and they kept selling out before I could get to the shop.  I bought this one without even thinking.  Nonetheless it's turned out to be my favourite, the one that's always in play no matter how few projects I might have on the go (and sometimes there really are only two or three.)

It's partly because the cheery floral lining is a perfect match for the rest, partly because the exterior is lovely Japanese linen, so soft and smooth with a little sheen to boot.  But a lot of it is the doily on the front, which is knit, not crocheted.  I guess my mum and her friends did more crochet than anything else because a knitted doily seems unusual to me, and this one is especially lovely with its intricate pattern:

Amazingly it's been knit out of cotton on small needles, I could swear by hand, and every stitch is perfect which is more than I can say for anything I'd knit in cotton on small needles. I think it's been worked from the outside in and I also think I probably have this very pattern in one of my vintage home decorating magazines if only because the pinwheel in the middle is a pretty common any medallion structure.  But if I don't, I might break down and try to figure out how to replicate it. It's just so pretty!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Soda crackers and juice

I have no idea where I went wrong but the knitting gods struck me down with noodle fingers last night in addition to a crazy bout of food poisoning. 

Look though, I'm sitting upright at my desk!  Progress.

Trivia for a Thursday: defizzed Coca Cola has a much different colour than I remember from the lost days of my youth when it was a source of excitement to drink the fizzy version. Vanilla Coke was my favourite.  Defizzed regular Coke, not so much.  But effective when trying to face down a trio of soda crackers.

And now back to propping myself up on a stack of pillows.  May your own day be progressing ever so much more pleasantly!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Little gifts

Over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies we did a Valentine's Swap, an activity I must say I love in spite of various nagging worries as some packages are delayed crossing the border between Canada and the US. We keep the price limit low - $10 including materials - which breeds a lot of creativity.  I made an apron, a felted wool tea trivet, and a little pin to go along with a few bought items I sent to my buddy, who lives too far south to really benefit from a woolly hat as far into spring as February. And here is the deliciousness I was sent (by a different buddy - we do a round rather than a direct back/forth) :

Not to worry about not quite seeing that bag of Lindt chocolate hearts - they were gone by the end of the day anyway, heh.  Apparently the pattern for the froggy bag is popular for lunches; I immediately tucked my super fluffy mohair socks into it, but I can see how copying the design for a few little bags of my own would use up some stash fabric and be handy for lots of little things, future gifts included.  Meanwhile, the frogs make it super easy to find my socks on a cluttered desk, and I love them for it.

That milk chocolatey yarn? Baby alpaca.  Yes.  I know exactly what I want to use it for too - a lacy shawl, yum.  And crocheted medallions?  In theory fab embellishments for other projects but in my case, totally a big start on my goal of handmade tree decorations for next Christmas. You can't feel how soft they are but if I tell you the fiber mix includes bamboo, you'll have an idea won't you.

Then a little while later - aforementioned border issues - along came this unexpected Valentine treat from another friend:

I have a tea cosy for my big pot but not for this little sweetie, my two-cupper with the china insert for loose tea. It looks so hip with that button on it.  And I love the colours in this yarn, don't you?  I find I keep looking at it and touching it and wanting more tea as an excuse to use it.

I do love sewing and making things for other people but whoa, is it ever nice to have other people make and sew things for me!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The matching cowl

I finished the cowl to match Carol's Winter Garden Hat:

It was quite a simple adaptation; I just knit the size L hat up to the crown, then repeated the first 12 rounds, then did two rounds of purl and cast off knitwise.  The end result is long enough to tuck up over your chin, if perhaps a little wider than I intended - so difficult to tell what superwash wool will do when wet blocked.

But pretty!

Carol put it on the instant I gave it to her and didn't take it off again so I think it was a success.  Really it's such a delight to mke things for Carol, she appreciates them so much.  We knitters all need a Carol in our lives (though perhaps a version who doesn't make us do face-down planks after thirty minutes of other ab and arm strength training.)

In related news: I was very aware of using up stash yarn for the cowl project.  Yes, it's come to that.

I stocked my stash a year or so ago with single skeins of the artisanal yarns I love, and mainstream cottons I used to love and - oops! - don't like to knit with any more, and other things I've designed for lots of times already that are not so fresh or inspiring these days.

And it must be faced: you pretty much need for pattern-writing the sorts of yarn every local yarn store across the country is selling, things that people who use the patterns can easily find to replicate what you've done (even though most of us substitute other yarns most of the time.)  None of which I seem to have left in the stash.

In conclusion, I need to go shopping. Yet I have no space for more stash, or much yarn budget now that I think of it.  Still, needs must... designing patterns is turning out to be like writing fiction: not something you have much choice about.

I'll just have to knit faster and clear out a little more room, that's all.  Who knows - maybe this will be the year my Christmas crafting is done in August?

Monday, February 21, 2011


The government where I live has declared today a holiday called 'Family Day', which is also known by me as "Mary Gets To Do Whatever She Wants Day."  Hopefully what I want will not include, as the past three or so weeks of scrap moments here and there have included, the overwhelming desire to do things for others and/or clean stuff. 

Just yesterday for example I was being briefly virtuous about going out and getting healthy food, anticipating many afternoon hours devoted to all things knitting, until I foolishly stopped into a big discount department store located a few doors from the grocer's where I spotted a fabulous quilt/pillow sham set I could not pass up.  Cue the furniture moving (since the quilt had to be shown to best advantage) and consequent cleaning and massive purging of accumulated paper and the surprise laundry. By the time I was done I was ready to fall onto the darned thing for the night.  No knitting.

Earlier in the weekend I did go over my works-in-progress pile though. 

(I do wish I had some more attractive arrangement for this... Amanda Soule uses a basket apparently, which goes with her everywhere and looks very pretty though I suspect it is too bulky for my rapid transit lifestyle.)

I cleared away the remnants from my Winter Garden Hat and Graduated Ribs Hat projects, and resigned myself to not working on a hat that would combine qiviut with some brightly coloured fingering - I don't have a pattern in mind yet anyway, and by the time I'd be done it would probably be a week before the weather warmed up enough not to need a qiviut hat. 

I frogged much of my handspun scarf, not being happy with some bulgy bits I hadn't paid close enough attention to as I went along (this is the nice thing about knitting - you get to rewrite history, if you're willing to sacrifice a little time) and put away some fiber I'd left out to be tempting, which it's being more of now that I can't see it (which suggests another interesting relationship with Life, don't you think?)

And that leaves me with:

Socks, socks, and a mariner sweater! A mariner sweater that I've decided to leave with battle scars intact, incidentally, if only to allow myself to move on already.

I will probably not be working on any of them today though.  Because this is Do What I Want Day, remember? and what I want is to get the swatches for some project proposals done and blocked, and the draft sample for an accepted project knit and tried on for size, and if there's still time left... a little spinning.  On the spindle.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Goal post

Lest you think I got so far down Sock Lane as to forget my original objectives for this year, I am here today to tell you that Tom came by last week and brought this:

Maple is a special club colourway from Twisted Fiber Art, which may eventually become part of the shop's regular rotation (it was certainly very popular!!).  I ordered these additional braids in a non-superwash merino because I continue to have problems predicting how much a superwash yarn will spread on blocking, and because I am thinking the retention of all those little grabbing arms will make it easier for me to spin.

Because it's possibly not replaceable, I fear working with it on the wheel I intend to learn how to use this year.  I'm thinking I will use it as my carrot, the fiber I get to spin once I know how.  It's very very pretty to look at and touch in the meantime!

Later in the week the regular postman brought some books I'd ordered, including Knitting Without Tears and this:

The Intentional Spinner was recommended to me by Helena, who has taken a course with Judith and found her beyond marvelous.  I can believe it, having read through much of the book now.  Over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies we did a survey that included the one knitting book we couldn't do without, and this one might have to share shelf space with The Principles of Knitting, for me.  It's got all the fiber breakdowns I love from The Knitter's Book of Yarn, another Can't-Do-Without book, and an exhaustive (but far from exhausting) section on techniques to spin different shapes of fiber for different purposes.

I was particularly interested in techniques for combining previously plied yarns and/or singles, since I'd really like to bulk up the laceweight I'd intended to use for 2011 Goal #2, the Estonian-ish Shawl, and use it for something else.  Which is not to say I've entirely given up on the Estonian Shawl idea.  Just that I accept needing something super elastic if I'm going to survive nupps.

You can buy this book on its own, or for a little extra expense with a companion DVD.  I bought the DVD version, but it's my understanding from the reviews at Amazon that if you're looking for Judith's instructional material what you want is The Gentle Art of Plying - this link is for a video download from Interweave, but you can also buy the DVD set from them.

I will do one or the other when I get through my current book and its little DVD, unless I find a course first.  Ady expressed marked interest in learning to spin and even pointed out how helpful it would be for me to have a friend who spins but does not knit or even weave, so I think she's serious.  And I am pretty sure that I can teach her the basics of a spindle, then line up a more advanced course somewhere between our towns.

So - yes.  Even though I have been very busy frogging and reknitting mohair socks to such a degree that it's already too warm again to wear them this winter, and dreaming up ideas for more hats, and knitting little presents, I have also been thinking about my spinning wheel and the fact that I still don't know how to use it.  It's progress of a kind, right?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Knitting without tears

This arrived last week:

I got it for the famous percentage system (designing sweaters with chest measurement, number of stitches per inch, and then percentages of the resulting numbers for the sleeves and neck and so on) and stayed for the writing.  And the yoke sweater pattern, which is lovely.

This is the thing with me about Elizabeth Zimmermann.  So many people are devoted to her for her engineering  genius, but while I did enjoy the mysteries of her baby surprise jacket I love her for her writing.  Such a great voice, such a perfect command of the English language and all its grammatical ticks!  She could write about sprockets and I'd buy her books.

Moving on:

There were many danishes on my holiday yesterday, but at the much-closer-to-home bakery than the pineapple danish source (we chose raspberry danish, blueberry cream cheese danish, chocolate croissant, sugar-topped brioche) plus a luxurious lunch from the Posh Grocery (turkey and avocado wrap) and No Carol (she kindly allowed me to reschedule till Friday, but I am still seeing her this morning so I will in fact be doing penance for the pastries in about an hour.)

I started the cowl to match Carol's hat:

and then stopped because what if the hat is too small? then I can simply finish the cowl as a hat, since I used the pattern one size up for the cowl.  With luck and fast drying time because the pattern is so fast to knit if I'm just home and not doing laundry - what a hope - I could give either the correctly-sized hat or the matching cowl to her tomorrow.

That's what I call Knitting Without Tears - but I still need a fix for frogging without tears, because I still seem to be doing an awful lot of mournful frogging and reknitting.  Is this a reflection of my absentmindedness, or my growing patience in striving for perfection? I must say I'm more conscious of the former than the latter.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A little holiday

Somehow I have managed to pull a chirpy week out of one that looked like a slug going in.  Oddly, the transformation involved a complete sacrifice of both knitting and the leisurely use of a sunny day; a meeting that would have tied up much of yesterday (while affording some standing around and knitting time) was canceled, and I magically found the energy to pack a week's worth of errands and chores into the day instead.

This means that today I get to enjoy a clean house plus several hours of visiting with my best friend who's in town, and stop into the Posh Grocer's for another tin of Scottish breakfast tea, and - if I can figure out a stealthy route from here to there and back again - drive to the cafe that sells pineapple danishes because I haven't had one in years and suddenly miss them quite despairingly.

Probably all at the expense of socks before sundown, but if I do get my mitts on a pineapple danish, I'm okay with that.  I must really have needed this little holiday!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Mohair and me

I talked to my friend Ady yesterday.  The socks I gave her fit perfectly, and I wish I could say the same for the ones I am knitting for myself by way of replacement.

Here they are yesterday around noon, after already being frogged back once from the heel (yes, both of them) for being half an inch too long.  This time I noticed they were half an inch too narrow, though how I managed to miss that during the trial for foot length I do not know.

Maybe I'm just too distracted to be designing my perfect socks right now?

Anyway, after I took that picture I frogged them back to the toes, added four more stitches to each one, and moved forward, resolutely ignoring the fact that the stitches are no longer sitting evenly owing to the yarn being so kinky now.  Sock #1 is ready for its gusset, and Sock #2 is my travel knitting for today, and I might (ha!) still have a new pair of socks to show you on Monday.

The ha! is not just skepticism. I got distracted by some other mohair socks stuff in the stash I'd been saving for a hat until I came to my senses.  It's an older Fleece Artist kit for mittens or socks, and the idea is to knit with a strand of mohair that's been hand-dyed in the same colours as a strand of blue faced leicester. 

I'm getting 5 stiches to an inch, and am therefore working with 46 stiches, and I can guarantee you when I get to the heel gusset I will realize that is not enough.  So I am either going to have to frog back a bit now just in case, or I can add an extra st on either side of the top of the foot when I get into the gusset, and because ripping back mohair that is this hairy and also I am pretty sick of frogging you can guess which option I'm probably going to choose.

What I love about the Fleece Artist ones: soooo pillowy! and all the fuzz is sitting on the purl side for reasons I'm not questioning.  They are going to be so soft and warm when I finally finish them in May.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Graduated Ribs Hat - a valentine freebie

It's not just about chocolate (even though it's mostly that) and flocked red or pink hearts exchanged by schoolchildren and young couples in love - for me, Valentine's Day is a colourful little day peeping out of the rest of the year when you can make not-quite-random acts of kindness just to say Thanks for being you.

My goal this year was to make little felted wool heart pins for all my friends far and near, but I ended up not having enough time (does this ever happen to you?), so instead I set aside a day last week to make this pattern.

Thank you for being you, and for sharing this blog with me!

It's pretty basic, but I liked knitting it - there's one setup row, and then you just go on doing what you did before until you're ready for the crown.

I did something a little different this time and put three sections into purl relief.

The neat thing about a hat like this is that it's reversible, and because it's not just an ordinary rib but a graduated one that gets wider and the narrower again, you do get a different look when you put it on the other way.

Even the crown changes.

I made this with Aran-weight yarn and bigger needles so it goes fast, and it's unisex, so it's got definite last-minute gift potential.  Just maybe not for this particular Valentine's Day.

Graduated Ribs Hat

Difficulty Level:
Beginner, but worked in the round

Araucania Toconao (100% merino, 139yds/100g) 1skein #401 green blue
1 set 4.5mm/US 8 double pointed needles (dpns) or size to obtain gauge
1 stitch marker
darning needle

17 sts, 26 rows = 4" in stocking stitch after blocking

Adult Small (Medium, Large) - 16" (17", 18") around, 7" (7.25", 7.5") long - all sizes stretch significantly; size M is pictured on my 21.5" head.

Download .pdf of Graduated Ribs Hat

Friday, February 11, 2011

Weekend reading

It's been an exciting week for mail, but the highlight was definitely receiving my copy of Fearless Fair Isle Knitting:

I knew this would be a hugely informative, priority-for-the-reference-shelf book because I have several of Kathi's other books and because I read the introductory chapter while knitting the sample I was assigned for it. I also knew the photographs would be stunning because I've seen a few on Kathi's blog.  But in person? whoa.

More than the sum of its parts.

First we have to get out of the way the mandatory visit to the sample I knit.  I haven't seen it in such a long time, after living with it for weeks!

There are a lot of full-page photographs in this book, but I wasn't prepared for a full-page closeup.  I am so grateful I was careful about my stitches.

So very grateful.  Two closeups?  and oh, look, you can see how I stitched on the fasteners!  I spent some serious time deciding on the prettiest way to get them on - good thing too.

This book falls easily into the top ten of the most beautiful knitting books I own.  It's so peaceful - nice large size, lots of white space, stunning photography - and there are lots of good reasons to keep going back to it, from the easy Fair Isle tricks I mentioned to the inspiration potential.  This is one of those books with a lifestyle element, as in...

... if I knit and wear these mittens, I am totally going to feel like I'm agile and in a lovely place working with gleaming materials to some organically satisfying purpose.  (I'm also going to be using up leftover yarn from a larger project, because Kathi is nothing if not practical.)

The book is full of patterns I want to make, from the vest on the cover, which I would cast on for right now if I had the yarn in the house,

to this hat, which I think would solve the problem of what Christmas item to make for a guy for whom I've already made a lot of things and need to come up with something that's special for reasons other than fiber (hard to top qiviut) or length of time (one word: ManSocks.)

Oh, and these fingerless gloves.

I love the idea of eating something as delicious-looking as that sandwich on a cool-day picnic this spring, or next fall, don't you?

(and you know what? I have lightweight wool in pretty much those exact colours in my stash right now.  h'mmmm.  maybe this post should be called 'weekend knitting', not 'reading'?)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Wave patterns

Sometimes life has a way of enforcing holiday time, and maybe I need to cultivate a greater proactive sort of interest in beaches because mine usually end up being sick days.  Right now it's a cold, and my head - sinuses? - are so full it's tough to keep my eyes open.

Good thing I can knit stocking stitch without looking, right?

In spite of being sick, I was still able to participate in a knitalong for the Winter Garden Hat over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies:

I didn't wait to block the hat, knowing too well that by today my eyes would be entirely at half mast. 

This is the smallest size, made I think for Carol who is tiny; I don't know if I'll make it to her gym on Monday but that's Valentine's Day and it would be good to bring her something after missing all of the last two weeks' sessions over illness and schedule.  She'll make me do face down planks anyway but maybe she'll notice less if I don't hold them for quite so long.

And as you may notice, I didn't knit it in Noro Silk Garden this time.  Partly because I didn't have enough left for a hat, and partly because I really wanted to see how the lace looks in a solid.  And now I want to see what it looks like in a darker solid.

In any shade though, I love the swirly top:

It's very cold at my house now, inside and out, and our heavy snows lately haven't stopped the squirrels:

This is the route they take over the top of my fence.  I guess I'm not the only one making scalloped edges.   The other fence's pattern isn't so striking

but I never get tired of looking at those trees, with leaves or without.  Don't they look like they're reaching out to each other in friendship?  I swear, two of those branches near the middle look like fingers intertwined.

And now, back to my busy vacation schedule.  I'm thinking of the sofa, with a sock I can knit in my sleep.  Or maybe just sleep?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Presenting: almost-perfect socks

You'll be thrilled to know I'm sure, after I accidentally knit Ady's socks, that the other pair of socks I finished on the weekend do fit me.  Admittedly I went to the other end of the scale and they are a little smaller than I intended, but that only turns out to mean they won't sag - the stitches look a bit stretched without feeling that way. 

I'm still tinkering with the math on my base sock pattern and I've revised the version for light sock weight to have more stitches after seeing how these came out. In every other respect: they are fabulous.

As anticipated, they match my purple purse and my green cardi so I can be all coordinated while sort of dressing up, event though the matchy green hardly seems to show up in these pictures.

And what are the odds?

The stripes match perfectly.

I'm also pleased with the details of this pattern, especially the gusset.  I'm changing the toe increase technique for the next pair, but I still like the way this version looks.

The resident Potential Piano Purchase budget dictates that I should not buy more sock yarn till I knit down the current stash, so I must say I'm very glad to have a few more skeins of Biscotte et Cie's Felix in there (scroll down at the link for current stock).  It's just really nice to work with and whoa, really nice to wear.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The story of Ady's socks

My friend Ady, for years the only person I knew who wears handknit socks and even now the only non-knitter of my acquaintance who has several pairs of them, really gets it about socks. Her sister - an incredibly talented knitter - has been making them for her now and then since I met Ady in university. She knows how long they take and what they mean, and she is so respectful of her socks she rations out her use of them lest they wear out and she not receive any other pairs ever.

Well, I was so struck by that idea - somebody who loves handknit socks and doesn't know how to knit and only knows one person who would ever knit socks for her - I was overcome with the feeling that I must knit socks for Ady.

For the last four weeks as I worked on my second pair of boot socks, I've been planning Ady's socks, which were next up in the queue. I asked her at Christmas on the phone to give me her foot measurements some time, and then I e-mailed her a reminder, and then I considered yarn:

They would have to have purple in them, you see. Ady has always been a purple person. That bluey stripe there in the Vesper yarn? That's actually purple. These two cakes would be great lightweight socks for Ady.

But would lightweight really be right? Ady, the first year I knew her, wore heavier woolly socks.

In fact that is mostly what she's worn, often in Birkenstocks, often in winter. She was the first friend I had who does that, and somehow even in the 80s she made them look hip. Ady is incredible that way - she has such a sense of style and such a way of holding herself. Sometimes I see her dressed up at funerals and she looks so fantastic in prints and shapes I would have written off as intended for older ladies had I seen them on a rack, I just want her to take me shopping. She's constantly pushing me to consider new ideas about visual art.

So I thought about this yarn:

It's heavier than the Vesper, and it's got mohair to wear a little harder; it's the lighter weight version of the yarn I used for both pairs of my wool/mohair boot socks. I love the way the colours here blend together like a richly tinted watercolour. Ady is a watercolour artist, so this one seems fitting. But not purple enough.

Then I heard that intelligent people use their Twisted Fiber Art heavier weight yarns for socks - why did this never occur to me? - so I got this Duchess combo out of the stash cupboard:

Purple, heavier weight, stripes that blur like watercolours - yep, that's perfect for Ady.

Or maybe I should just give her these.

Because you know what happened? I thought so much about Ady while I knit those second boot socks for me, I knit them in her size.

It was the weirdest thing. I didn't notice till I'd turned the heels, and then I pretended it wasn't true and kept going, but by the time I was finished one and getting on with the cuff of the other I had to stop and call her to get those measurements once and for all.

She didn't even say Hello when she picked up, just "I don't. Believe it. I was just about to hit 'send' on e-mailing you my foot measurements!" Well, I believed it. I asked her to read me the e-mail and:

I couldn't have knit these socks more perfectly if I'd been fitting them for the duration. Two shoe sizes up from my own and wider too - they were Ady's socks the whole time and I didn't know it.

Bye-bye, boot socks.

And hello, new pair for me!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Winter Garden Hat - a pattern for sale

UPDATE: this pattern is free now... enjoy!

And now, back to the hat.

I think I never actually posted finished pictures of the hat I made on Christmas Day:

What happened was, I opened a squashy package and took a ball of Noro Silk Garden out of it and because there was obviously another ball in there I thought, Scarf!

and then I pulled out the other and thought - um, hat? because they were very, very different colourways.

I did try to find a hat pattern you could knit with just one ball of Silk Garden, but Ravelry said there was nothing so I sat down with some stitch dictionaries and fussed with them until I found a few I could manipulate into my preferred math equations. And then I swatched them all, and got the hat halfway knit a couple of times before I finally settled on one that I liked a lot, and then Christmas Dinner was very fashionably late.

I knit up both balls and took them to visit Lannie so you could see the clever way I worked in the decreases for the crown:

The decrease points for size M make a perfectly curved crown, but in L (on the right) and S it's a little more squared off. Unless you're wearing it pretty snug on your head.

The colour shifts for size L, pictured above, featured a green I knew I would never in a million years be able to live with alongside the others, so I cut it out and picked up the knitting when the next colour came in. I still had a comfortable amount of yarn left at the end.

And now for the bit you really care about if you live where it snows (have you noticed the little snowflakes in most of these pictures?): it's warm. I've been testing.

Winter Garden Hat

Difficulty Level:

Noro Silk Garden (45% silk, 45% kid mohair, 10% lamb's wool, 100m/50g) 1 ball
1 set 5mm/US 8 double pointed needles (dpns) or size to obtain gauge
1 stitch marker
darning needle

15 sts, 22 rows = 4" in stocking stitch after blocking

Adult Small (Medium, Large) - 18" (19.5", 21") around - all sizes 7" long so as not to have scallops slipping over your eyes, but there's enough yarn in a ball to add a round or three to the brim if you want it longer.

download now

Friday, February 4, 2011


In the extreme cold we've been having all I care about is keeping my feet warm, which explains why all my other projects currently pale in comparison to the joy and splendour of my wool/mohair boot socks. They are thick like a castle wall if it was made of butter, they weigh a ton, and the mohair has no itch factor whatsoever. Can you blame me?

There is one small catch with this otherwise fabulous yarn and that is the yardage. As in, there isn't enough in one skein to do two socks. Two feet, yes. And then you have to do a contrast cuff.

So here are the candidates this time:

Green handspun I haven't finished spinning yet, which is just enough off to clash (bad) and will delay the wearing of these socks (unthinkable) or

Bluey purple BFL from a Fleece Artist kit that will probably still work if I use some of it for this cuff.

You have to look closely, but there are in fact flecks of this exact blue in amongst the pinks and purples, and also, the blue is the same weight as the wool/mohair blend.

I think we have a winner!

(Or not, because there is something very peculiar transpiring about these socks, I can feel it. My plan is to ignore it for a few days while I work on something else in case it goes away. I'll tell you about it when it does, or if it doesn't and I have to face it. And I hope it's not the latter.)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Strawberry Sundae hat - a pattern for sale

PLEASE NOTE: this pattern is now free :^)  If you click on 'download now' at the bottom of this post, it should take you straight to the goods.

And now: the hat.

Today I get to tell you about a favourite thing I made last fall when Louise at Biscotte & Cie asked me to design a hat for her fall 2010 sock club. I love all of her yarns (I've tried most of them now) and her colour sense, and the fact that she includes an exclusive pattern with each month's package really sets her club apart.

The yarn she chose for me to work with was an incredible cashmere blend in an Aran weight - so squashy, and in the colour of squashed berries no less. Or perhaps the colour they'd leave behind on a cotton apron after a day of canning. It was perfect for an adaptation of a dual cable I'd seen on a men's sweater in a vintage pattern book and nowhere else.

It was so much fun to build cables into the decreases.

In spite of having been conceived as a unisex toque, in pink it looked like nothing so much as dessert. Louise and I quickly decided it had to be a Sundae hat. In the club version, it was strawberry, of course, and in my test for size large, blueberry:

I used Araucania's plain merino Toconao for that one, and I do like the way it looks - but there is no comparison in the way it feels. Did I mention 'cashmere'?

There is probably a lot more La Grande Douce in Biscotte's brick and mortar shop than at her website, so if you don't find any online you can always e-mail her to ask about it. I know I'll be doing that because: Yum.

Strawberry Sundae Hat

Difficulty Level:

Biscotte & Cie, La Grande Douce, (80% superwash merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon, 185 yds/115g), strawberry, 1 skein
1 set 3.75mm double pointed needles or size to obtain gauge
1 stitch marker
1 cable needle

20 sts, 28 rows = 4" in stocking stitch

The ribbed structure means the finished hat will stretch 4-5" wider than the measurements given. Small (Medium; Large): 16" around, 7.25" long (17" around, 7.25" long, 18" around, 7.5" long).

This hat is designed to fit snugly and cover just half the ear, so as not to be pushed out of place by a thick scarf or high coat collar. There will be enough room in a single skein of La Grande Douce to make even the largest size longer by adding 2 repeats of Round 1 ribbing for every quarter-inch in length you wish to add.

download now

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


It's a testament to the crazy that I totally missed yesterday being February 1, aka the day I got to open the first package from this season's Biscotte club. When I finally figured it out, yay! But I was in the middle of stuff, so I made myself wait another half hour while I got it done. I'm Stoic like that, you know.

Okay, maybe not so much Stoic as easily distracted because I had to move stuff in mid-stuff, and came across some vintage knitting pattern books given me by a friend and had to stop to look, and then photograph one in particular.

All the patterns in this booklet are awesome in their basic-ness. They'd do a brilliant job showcasing some of the gorgeous yarns available today that weren't back then; I've set the book aside to give one of them a go later on.

But what the heck is that woman looking at? Her eyes are practically bugging out!

She wasn't the only one - I was much the same when I finally got my Biscotte package open:

Wowza! That's actually two separate skeins, for the wildest, most cheery-uppy-in-winter socks you can possibly imagine and then some (Ravelry link - and if you can't connect to it, then imagine some seriously wild socks and rest assured they are wilder than that, even.)

And to complete the three-things cycle, I got a call to confirm I would in fact be home to receive flowers. That sure doesn't happen every day.

Allow me to leave you for the day with one last vintage knit image:

Seriously, what on earth did they put off-camera?

(and yes, I'm totally knitting that blue cardi.)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A very dull girl

The last few days have been nonstop work helping my mum to move house so: no playtime (apart from some sewing projects with the little felted wool hearts I have been cutting out. Can't show you now, but - cute!)

I do have a knitting story for you though.

Yesterday was the actual moving day, involving my sock-friendly uninsulated boots plus a long wait for a bus at icy temperatures. I knew I couldn't pull this off without wool socks, and guess who was too busy to wash any? Guess what was the only pair left in the sock cubby?

Yes. The socks I knit for mum but made too tight for her.

I did not want to do it, but I wore them, debating whether or not to tell her they'd been planned for her, should she notice them.

And you know what?

She didn't!

Mum always notices my socks, or anything else I make - two minutes into any visit she's reaching for whatever it is to take a closer look or feel the fiber or investigate the technique. She didn't spot these even when I had to kick off my boots to climb onto a chair and take down one set of drapes or later, when I did the same thing to hang another.

So I think it's good I had to keep them after all; while I love the colour, it must have been far too subtle a choice for her. And they sure did help me out on a busy day, keeping me warm and comfy for the duration. Thank you, mis-knit socks!