Thursday, June 30, 2011

Surprisingly: progress

I ignored the laundry and the kitchen yesterday in favour of a lot of time on YouTube and a lot of staring at my spinning wheel, and ultimately decided to play around with where the drive band goes.


I went from the super huge not-remotely twisted fiber on the right to the intensely thin and twisty stuff on the left.

I did say it was twisty.

Having clarified the problem, I got all that mess off the bobbin, made a few more adjustments to the tension, and started again.

Better, yes?

Well, maybe not perfect yet.  But getting there!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The weekly panic

So many things I'm reacting to this morning.  Like,

I worked very hard yesterday and got one of the Taveners socks entirely over the heel (speaking of which, I do now have heel instructions printed out and in the bag and golly, they couldn't be easier so I should be able to memorize them eventually) and the other onto the gusset for same.  And then tried one on, and it turns out that socks without any ribbing or pattern sag horribly at the ankle. I feel a bit as though I've wasted my very favourite sock colourway, but am trying to focus on the fact that nobody sees my ankles anyway when I'm wearing my boots.

I'm just really sad over the friend I'm visiting in the hospital (and when I say friend, I mean friend who is also family, the two not always going together as you know.)  I'm hoping that when my special-order yarn comes in and I reknit the Mystery Shawl while polishing up the clues, it will support me the way the original one did when things first started to turn very bad.

I just bought two more knitting project bags from Melissa especially for socks (see above) when I should be trying not to splurge (see above also, emphasis on 'special-order-yarn', inference being 'lots of it').  I just always feel a little better around my tinyhappy bags - I don't know what good spirit she sews into them, but there is definitely something and it appears to last for years.

The Tour de Fleece starts in July and I'm not ready - I still have no idea what I'm doing wrong with my wheel.  Oh, and I thought 'July' was 'later in July.'  In fact it's 'this Saturday.'  I'm hoping I will nail the problem today, or rather problems - I think it's a combination of wrong tension, wrong treadling speed, and very poor drafting skills.  I will be spending a lot of time staring at screens running spinning videos, for sure, while hoping I get some sit-down time with Karen on my annual trip to Ottawa later in the month.  Karen figured her wheel out in, like, a day.

I knit a bit of my Deco cardi last night.  If I continue at this pace, approximately 3 rows per day, will it be ready for October do you think?  Nah, I don't think so either.  But I also deliberately marked some of my current projects as 'hibernating' in Ravelry so I can focus on urgent ones like Deco and sock-finishing, so that's given me a bit of a mental lift.

Never ceases to amaze me, the power of the mental lift - often you have to actively remember to do it when things get tough, but just freeing yourself from a few (usually self-imposed) obligations is like dumping sandbags from an air balloon. 

And that is an analogy I will be forgetting promptly, because I am really, really scared of heights, and you can't knit non-superwash wool with sweaty palms.  Trust me.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Socks on the road

Lately all the knitting I've done has been while in transit, which means chemo hats and socks, because everywhere I've needed to go is just so darned far away and then of course the commute eats up any time one might spend on cardigans knit from yarn on cones.

I guess I'm impressionable because ever since Helena pointed out the importance of always having a sock just cast on and ready to grab in case of emergency I've tried to have one in that state (and then I get interested and by the time an emergency comes up - they do keep happening, dagnabbit - I'm on to the heel and can't find that part of the instructions.)

That's why I have two pairs of socks going right now, one super easy plain knitting, and one that's complicated by the fact that I'm writing a pattern for the leg design.  This is foolish and completely misses the point of emergency knitting but I seem to be compulsive as well as impressionable, and also I haven't been able to bring myself to just knit a pattern swatch for heaven's sake but must knit 3" of sock before I decide I want a slight change in the stitch.  Sigh.

This is what's sitting on my counter at the moment, for grabbing and going.

The back bag is both of the pair of complicated socks; the front one is just one plain sock.  Taking just one makes the bag lighter and smaller, and keeps the two balls from getting tangled, but of course you run the risk of making one sock longer than the other.  Yesterday after another age on public transit I compared the one in the little bag to the one in the storage bag and panicked a little.

The Tavener on the left is the one I'd worked on that morning; the sock on the right was the one I'd put aside last week because it seemed like it was getting close to long enough.  They are almost the same length; thank goodness I didn't take the left-hand sock to a coffee shop yesterday while exhausted but came straight home instead.

Post-panic, I counted rows on an existing perfect-length sock and then on these two, coming up with an ideal row count that I don't know why I didn't write down before I cast on in the first place unless another of my bad qualities is the urge to live dangerously, or at least overly complicate things (which I think just might be true, don't you?)

Sock on the right: half a row short of ideal.
Sock on the left: 12 rows short of ideal.

Whew.  Except ACK. Because once again: I'm at the heel.  Two heels.

So the Deco cardi is going to wait just the teensiest bit longer while I get these two socks over the bend so they can go back to being mindless emergency knitting.  The patterned socks I've finally worked out, and last night I wrote up the details and made a cheat sheet such that they are both embellished and mindless, even better for emergencies because they give you a sense of progress while allowing you to read the sock and not the instructions. 

I think I might be nailing this business of turning my character lemons into lemonade, don't you?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Meet Hubie, the summer intern

Now that it's finally summer (I could tell by the calendar) I'll be starting to take a few days off here and there, which will affect the frequency of weekday posting here at Hugs.  I've been thinking it would be good to have an intern who could help out with that.

His name is Hubert, or rather Hubie; I met him a couple of weeks ago at the hospital gift shop.  On Friday I discovered that somebody had taken up with his twin so I didn't dawdle any further over my hiring decisions. He's spent the weekend settling in amongst the fiber, the results of which will doubtless unfold on my vacation.

Here he is with the current iteration of my Deco cardi for the Knitting and Tea and Cookies knitalong.  I decided to be optimistic and go down two sizes this time - wish me luck on having guessed right.  One good thing about this development - it takes much less time to get through a row, which is helpful when I'm so far behind everybody else. 

I can see some difficulties ahead for Hubie though - those arms are awful short for needles, and he'll definitely have to learn Continental knitting because there's no way he can do the throw method with stumps for hands.  H'mmmmm.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Grab bag

Yesterday Trish and I went to a yarn store and didn't buy anything for ourselves.

(ha! did I fool you?)

Yeah, the plan was just to get a gift for somebody else, but then I remembered I needed some yarn to work out the details on a fiendishness I've been cooking up with Helena while I wait for another postal strike to pass so I can receive her contribution to same. And when I'd chosen that, I noticed some Koigu yarn on the shelves.

I hear people saying that word all the time but boy, until you've seen it...

Well, I have oodles of sock yarn so No.

Then I saw some Koigu knit into a sample on the counter...

... in the form of a Minion...

... and I am feeling drooly even now, about 20 hours later.  I can make Minions with my own scraps of sock yarn, but the flecky green Koigu in the kit?  whooooooaaaa.

I still managed to resist, barely, but then Trish said, "Look, they have grab bags."  Well, I know you're supposed to not buy yarn you can't even see when there is other yarn you can see all too well and want very badly, but we both caved.

Of course, there was yarn of questionableness in the bottom of each of our bags, but I certainly still got my money's worth out thanks to these three interesting, discontinued items:

This strange blend of acrylic, wool, and nylon seems to be unspun fiber secured with a couple of lines of machine stitching.  I'm extremely curious as to how this will knit up, either as a hat for a human or a body for a cuddly, perhaps lamb-shaped, stuffy.

Also, this knotted-together medley of ribbons, sparkly-string, and boucle in rather lovely metallics and sea greens. It was nestled beside a pretty-darn-close-to-matching fuzzy green yarn also missing its ball band - think mohair/angora - that I think I will alternate with it for a simple but arty looking scarf.

and the piece of resistance, as my dad would say:

Some superbulky wool/cotton/silk Noro in perfect-for-me colours. Somebody on Ravelry managed to knit a pair of mitts with just this much of this yarn, and I'd like a hat out of it, so I'm thinking of teaming it up with my solo ball of superbulky black wool so I can have both.  That should make a cool yet toasty warm set, don't you think?

Oh, and bonus:  When we got home I remembered to show Trish the vest I'd knit for mum, and she liked it and took it for unraveling.  Yay!

Have a great weekend, folks - see you Monday!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Blast from the past

When my mum moved I helped her go through her wardrobe and weed out the things she doesn't wear any more.  One item in that category:

A knit by me from my university years, of which I was sufficiently proud to sew in a 'Specially hand made by Mary' label.

Mum was very sweet and insisted she's always liked this piece in spite of its never having flattered her figure - hello, obvious - while conceding that it could go.  I remember scoring this yarn at a discount at the Canadian 1980s equivalent of JoAnns and being very excited because it had some mohair in it.  I think I also liked the colours, not thinking ahead to the effect of horizontal stripes on a cropped vest.

Well, off it goes from my house now.  Which is to say it's in a bag in my car to go off to Goodwill. 

Or maybe... should I frog it? 

Should I felt it?  

Should I offer it to Trish to frog, since she hunts for froggable things at Goodwill and might actually end up paying for this vest? Won't it be a nightmare to frog with all that mohair grabbing at itself?  It would be insanely thick if I felt it, assuming there is even enough wool and mohair in there to work.

I think it just needs to go to Goodwill.  But maybe I'll talk to Trish first.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Running to stand still

For some reason, Blogger won't let me post pictures today, so instead of what I was going to show you I will tell you how fwuuuuu


ted I am with the daytime chemo cap I'm making for my friend.

First I made it too big,

then I made it too big,

then I tried it in cotton and made it too big

then I thought I'd cut to the chase and skip the second too big I'd already done in wool

and it came out too small

even though I can get it on my head, and I have hair which takes up space, I can tell it's too small because my head hurts after I've taken it off

so I have to make it again in cotton but bigger

after I've finished it in the third time through the wool version

which is really the fourth time through because the Bobcap is built on the same size principle and turned out to be the right one.

Pant, pant, pant. 

And I hate knitting in cotton since I discovered really elastic wools.

With every stitch I feel the hats reminding me how very lucky I am not to be needing one of these myself, and believe me I'm grateful, but...

do you think I'll ever get to work on a cardi or a sock again?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bobcap - a free pattern

I've learned a lot about chemo hats over the past year or so since people have been writing me about the ones I've designed, but the thing that stays with me the most is the fact that your hair helps keep your head warm when you're sleeping.  This had never occurred to me.  When your hair is gone, you get cold, and it's just not cosy or even easy to sleep.

The solution is a sleep cap.  I've seen many versions of these, and what they all have in common is being Not Lumpy, because who wants to turn over onto a whomping huge cable?  But none of the ones I saw really made me think of my very hip friend who is starting chemo soon, so I designed this hat for her using an unfortunately out-of-circulation colourway in Playful from Twisted Fiber Art.

My idea was to keep it super plain on all sides, just letting the hand-dyed semisolid yarn be beautiful like her, and putting a little something onto the front for personality.  I decided on three ridges of seven stitches each, for luck - don't worry, it's not a hard maneuver - and knit my way up to the crown in no time.

Once I got it on and saw the angle those ridges make, well.

All I could think of was my big brother teaching the eight-year-old me to raise my eyebrow.

If you've been around my blogs long enough you will know how much I adored Bob, who died of malaria when I was just 15, and how much I think of him every day.  He was a lot older and I was a terrible pest, so he must have had a pretty huge patient streak. He didn't just take me on hikes and once to the local carnival when nobody else could be bothered, he also taught me how to tie my shoelaces, and - oh boy - how to raise my eyebrow like him and even waggle it.  I absolutely love being able to do that, at just the right moment in any conversation.  (I don't know about him, but while I can raise either, I can only waggle the right one.)

Anyway I had to name this hat for Bob.  And I think I have to make one for myself even though I have hair because you know what?  It looks to me like a pretty awesome snow-day hat.

Hope you enjoy it too, if you make one.

Download .pdf of Bobcap

The incredible shrinking sweater

The last time we visited the cardi I'm making for the Knitting and Tea and Cookies knitalong, I said I feared was making it a size too big.  Here's how far I got before I decided that this was, indeed, true:

And here's how far along I am on the next-smaller size now that I've realized it's still true:

I retook my measurements on the weekend and it looks like even my most feeble effort to peel back the consequences of two years of stress (no eating after 6pm) is bringing those numbers down. Assuming I stick to the 6pm rule into the fall - and I have to for a lot of reasons - I will swim in the cardi if I go on with the size I'm making.  And it is too cold to swim outside in October.

On the bright side, I'll have a highly visible motivator to keep me going, not least because I have just spent a ton on yarn for accessories to coordinate with this exact piece.

Unrelated news: I have pictures of glasses, as requested.

Old, with the cool engraved-in-red temples not quite visible:

New,with the bright white temples not quite visible:

When I look at these I prefer the old ones, but the new are a lot more functional.  The other new ones, when I get them, will fill the 'cool' gap.  I think. Gah.

(and yes, they will also match the knitalong cardi. I did say I'd been wardrobe planning, right?)

Friday, June 17, 2011

Two steps forward, one step back

Looking over the remains of the week I see I completely neglected my cardi for the KAL (well, I did a row most days, but that's pretty slow progress), cast on a new sock and ignored the old ones, dried the Sock Sweater parts but 'forgot' to put them back on the needles or figure out the Fair Isle pattern for the yoke, and did a ridiculous amount of exercise. That last one doesn't have anything much to do with knitting except for eating up knitting time.  Sigh.

What I did get done:

I finally decided on - and placed - my order to Twisted Fiber Art for various sock and shawl goodies. I'm planning quite elaborately for my fall/winter wardrobe for the first time in years. Of course it will take me years to knit it all, but we're not thinking about that right now.

I picked up my new glasses.  Again, nothing much to do with knitting except that the glasses I have now are very wide at the temple and push out the sides of practically every knit hat I design, making them look weird and let in cold air (and now you know why I knit about twice as many hats as make it to published pattern status.)  The new glasses are much snugger.  The other new ones, because I couldn't decide between two very cute but very different frames, are even better than the current new ones. I don't have them yet because I am telling you, 'graduated lenses' (aka TRIfocals, people, GAH, how can this be when I still feel 20?) do not come cheap.  That prescription is being filled next month, to space out the pain.

I totally messed up my friend's sleep cap but scored when I decided it was better for a daytime cloche and designed a simple sleep cap with just one little wrinkle (well, three):

I'll post the pattern next week.  And meanwhile, I've knit the first half of daytime cloche version three - same hat, two sizes down, what was I thinking before?  That one I have to knit again in another yarn before I can share the pattern, so stay tuned.  Both can be used for just regular hats too, of course.

The plan for the weekend: oh dear. Just catch up already.  And clean up the ol' pile of works in progress, again. I really, really want to get it down to five... but I can't beat myself up for getting distracted over chemo caps.  Right?  Right.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Toe in the water

I secretly opened the spinning wheel last week. Honestly, I don't know why I'm so scared of that thing - it makes the most beautiful rhythmic sound as I treadle, and the wheel is mesmerizing when it moves. Maybe it has something to do with... oh, I don't know... the fact that it

EATS every fiber I let near it???

It's me, I know.  I just don't know what I'm doing yet. But the fact remains that any fiber I put on that wheel twists beyond recognition or limps onto the bobbin completely unspun, alternating between the two at 5-15" intervals.  Learning to use a wheel is going to require sacrifice of good, easy-to-spin fiber while I figure it out.  I just have to accept that, plus the loss of some of the luscious fiber I've been shoring up against the day when I am capable of making achingly pretty handspun.

I was able to open the spinning wheel because I found this:

I like the colours, there's not enough to miss from the stash when I mess it up, and it was meant as needlefelting fiber to which purpose it can return no matter what damage I do it.  Perfect.

I got out my copy of The Intentional Spinner and the DVD at the back of Judith MacKenzie McCuin spinning and plying (she is even more awesome than Helena told me incidentally, plus: no new-agey music in the background! - I'm definitely getting her other stuff), saw some things I was doing wrong, turned back to the living room and with a deep breath, opened the wheel -

- and discovered this:

Suuuuper short fibers on the needlefelty stuff.  Go figure.  Where I could get it to spin at all, I got this:

So, you know.  Back to the drawing board, or in this case the fiber stash.  It's sad, but it's gotta be Twisted fiber.  And the one that won the lottery?

Wish it luck.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why five is better than four

Took my Taveners sock out yesterday. Notice anything different?

No, I don't mean the length.

Three needles. I dropped one of my dpns somewhere very early on in the day and had to limp through on four instead of my usual five. If I'd been knitting with four needles in the first place? DOOM.

But I am not congratulating myself for having bought multiple sets in my preferred sock size of Knitpicks Harmony double pointed needles (which come with extras in case of loss).  I am instead kicking myself for not yet having secured a ridiculously small-cable Addi circular in said size. 

Yes, I know I could also solve the problem by magic looping or using two circular needles, but the goal here is 'insanely compact' for travel in large groups and knitting while walking, so the teeny Addi is the way to go.  Must hunt one up this weekend somewhere... h'mmmm.

Because I chronically overcommit I also brought along the sleep cap and got it as far as I could get into the crown before needing dpns in that size.

There is just a little detail in the front that pulls up the ribbing for a small pretty I hope will not be annoying in use, as it exposes a bit more forehead in that part.  You can barely see it here, I bet.

In the evening I finished the hat and foolishly cut the yarn before trying it on, something I never do because I almost never get a design right the first time.  Naturally it turned out to be about half an inch too short, so I had to frog back and knit more to get to the  new decrease point... and then I got oddly engrossed in a pretty poor movie featuring Tab Hunter (but also Rossano Brazzi!) and knit about an inch beyond the original decrease point, so it's now way too long and I'll have rip back again.  GAH.

It was a nice day out though, so that's good, right?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Taveners socks

I had a terrible shock while winding yarn into twin cakes in aid of knitting up all my Vesper stripeys before the year is out.  While I was digging through things already caked for the purpose and pushing past skeins not yet so treated, I had to face the math:

On top of the Vesper and not counting several other skeins I'm hoarding from Biscotte et Cie, I have lined up 12 pairs of socks to knit in just 6 months.


Something will have to give, or I will have to get faster, or both - probably both.  Anything but stop buying yarn!

Anyway prior to facing The Awful Truth, I hunted patterns at Ravelry and found four I like - two that make pretty stripes prettier, and two that make semisolids sing - and I picked two stripeys to slip into two bags each with one of the pretties to get going with when I'm done the current pair.  (the solids can wait for when I get to the solids.)

Then I did a very clever thing I am recommending as a tip. I hunted again for socks others have made with my exact stripey colourways and found that the very best colour for plain knitting is my very favourite of all the as-yet-unknit skeins.  (this is also how I found one of the stripe-friendly patterns.)

Since I have a long day out today where I will undoubtedly need to pick up and put down more super compact, straight 'no need to look down' knitting than I have on any other needles, I set up the snuggest of the twin cakes with a full ribbing so I can just pick up and go.

It looks like this:

Which reminds me very much of this:

Mum used to keep a tin of Taveners Fruit Drops in the kitchen for treats when I was very small, and though they were just boiled sweets I was fascinated by the deep dredging of powdered sugar they were packed in to keep from sticking. It was very special to be allowed to have one, and even more so to be able to choose an orange one since I was not alone in disliking the more-abundant lemons and the limes. 

I found this tin in a little gift shop last week and had to have it.  Timely, yes?

Anyway, that's the code name for these socks - the Taveners, this time with all the saturated orange a girl could want.  Wish me luck!

Monday, June 13, 2011

On the porch

Sunday had a few hours of perfection in it, most of them spent on the front porch.  Sitting in a comfy chair at the far corner and looking up, I get to look at this:

and if I crane my neck out further, I see this:

I love my tree.  Especially on a day like that - sunny sometimes, cloudy others, the temperature just cool enough to need sleeves, a gentle breeze, tons of blossoms sending their scent along the air currents. Reminds me so much of the good things about camping out sans bugs, sunburn, and soaked clothes.

I decided to park myself there for as long as possible to enjoy it, leaving only to get another cup of tea.  There was some knitting of the sleep cap for my friend who's about to do chemo, and also some reading of a book my aunt loaned me.

Have you heard about Nella Last's War and/or this book, Nella Last's Peace?  They are nonfiction - diary excerpts written by an English woman for a government initiative to record what life was actually like for its citizens.  Essentially the books capture the social history of small-town England during WWII and afterward, since she not only recorded her own days but the moods of the people around her.

They're also about Nella, though, and that alone is fascinating.  The first diary was dramatized for television - depressing at first as she begins her observations as a nervous, timid person, then uplifting as she finds her footing as (ultimately) a huge local contributor to the war effort.  She is an excellent home manager too and I feel, reading her notes about what food she could find amid the rations and coupons and how she prepared it to be as comforting as possible, that I wish I could take a class from her on the subject.

At one point yesterday as I was about to put the book down for my own knitting, I came across a mention of her young friend and neighbour Margaret trying unsuccessfully to source some scraps of grey yarn to use in a Fair Isle sweater; Nella had none, but kindly dug out one of her own old sweaters, a green one, for Margaret to unravel and reknit. She noted that she felt sorry for these young people with busy fingers, not being able to find materials to work with.  I think I would have loved having Nella Last for a friend, don't you?

I see there is a further book of her thoughts during the 1950s... must hunt that up for some summer reading.

In spite of the distraction I finished the sleep cap before supper.  Yay! And it's gorgeous.  It's just not a good sleep cap; the super easy yet effective brim is too bumpy to be comfortable in lying down.  So... it seems I've designed a new chemo cloche to share once I've gone over the pattern again, and also that I've got to get to work on something more suitable for sleeping in.

Happy Monday to you!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Vesper love

Well, here we are in June- the sixth month, aka the point at which if I haven't gotten myself in gear for my New Year's resolutions they maybe ain't gonna happen.

Recap: one was learning to spin on my wheel, and the other was making a Haapsalu lace shawl out of laceweight cashmere.

The spinning's not going too horribly - more on that later - but I have officially given up on the shawl (for this year anyway.)

Instead, I am thinking about something else.  Handknit socks, to be specific.

I love my socks, especially the Vesper ones since there are so many and I've been knitting them the longest.  I found Vesper yarn in a feature on hand-dyed yarns in I think Interweave Knits - there was a one-page photograph of a lot of different yarns and I don't know, the Vesper just jumped out and said Knit Me!  I went to the website and found a sock club was just starting so I joined.  Even though I had never knit socks before.  I'm so glad I did.

I am careful with my socks - Kathi told me not to walk on wood floors in them and I almost never do - so overall they've held up well.  But I must say I find this to be a ridiculous degree of well:

These are the first socks I made - in a week it will be two years since I finished them - and I have worn and washed them probably 100 times since then.  Not even a hint of a worn heel.

And as for colour:

Okay, the sock is a bit lighter than the original yarn, but barely.

Really the only harm done to any of my socks is a little chafing around the Velcro closures of my Mary Janes (something I will probably amend when they wear out, which is likely to happen before the socks do.)

So here is what I am scheming as a totally irresponsible replacement for the Haapsalu Shawl resolution: knitting up all the rest of my Vesper stash by the end of the year.  Totally crazypants, but I promised myself I wouldn't rejoin the sock club till I caught up with the previous ones, and I really, really miss the sock club.  Here is what is left:

Oh, plus the Spring-a-Ding-Ding:

Okay, that is a lot of socks to get done in six months, isn't it.  But... not impossible.  I mean, if I just knit socks, I could totally do a pair in a week, so... nope, not impossible.  Especially if I give myself a break and keep the pink and green solids out of this endeavor... I kinda want to pair them in striped kneehighs, and I don't think I'm up to that yet.  Maybe they can be next year's resolution.

Have a great weekend folks - hope to see you on Monday!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cue the second-guessing

So, I got my Deco cardigan cast on (in green, did I say this?) for the knitalong at Knitting and Tea and Cookies. Yay!  Then I promptly misread the instructions and thought I had to cut the yarn so I could start over on the other side of all those unworked stitches, which seemed odd until I realized my mistake later. Meh, what's another end to run in?

You work the body of this cardi in one piece - front, back, front - which makes for a very long needle.  For the first five or six rows I kept being surprised how much longer it takes to knit the pattern in the actual sweater compared to the pattern in the gauge swatch.  Because apparently I am not logical.

Over at Ravelry other people knitting the cardi have noted just how cropped it is.  The general consensus is to add some length at the beginning of the cardi because as you get further along there are interesting things happening that you don't want to mess around with.  So I compared the set measurements for Deco with the still-wet Carrot Cardi, blocking after its spring bath, and decided to add 3".  Then as I went along I did some weighing and realized I don't have anything like the yarn for all that, so I cut back and decided on this:

It's taken me a while to figure out why this looks strange, but I see now it's because I should have switched over to stocking stitch when instructed, and then added length.  Gah.  This way, it's going to be a lot out of balance with the button band, while drawing undue attention to my hips.

And there's another thing - size. 

Fun fact:  have you noticed that when buying ready-made clothes there is no price distinction between an extra-small and an extra-large?  yet when you are nobly making a garment yourself you are going to pay for every additional inch to be covered?  Not to mention how much sooner you're done when you're making the smaller size.

And I am like the mother of eight who still cooks for ten long after the sixth kid has moved out when it comes to size estimation and yardage choice.  See, I was essentially one size ('skinny') for about 15 years and then crept up to a healthy 'slim' for another five or so before my metabolism slowed down, my work life became totally sedentary, and all my poor eating habits (ice cream for breakfast, pizza at bedtime) finally caught up with me.  It's taken me a long time to forget the skinny me and shop for the more average-sized me.  Then the bad two years happened with all the stress and eating out in less than ideal restaurants and general calorie overload, and now I'm really thrown. I look at stuff and think it'll work, then put it on and can't breathe, or I overcompensate and think it'll work and put it on and I am swimming in a tent.

Thankfully the really bad two years appear to have ended, leaving me free to Take Measures to get myself back to where I was when they started, which I don't anticipate being a problem except for taking till the fall to achieve.

Gosh though - the fall is also when the cardi should be wearable! and I panicked at the last minute and cast on a size that is 2" up from where I am right now.  This is a mistake, right?  I keep asking myself whether this is a mistake and wrapping the needle around me and thinking No, it's okay, it doesn't quite meet in the middle (it does), and then I remember there is also a button band to add on later.


I am so ripping this out and starting it over again, aren't I.  But on the bright side, I can fix that cuff error, and I'll save on time and yardage.  Hey, maybe I can make a matching hat!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Summer planning: moth edition

The other day I had to push past a bag of socks to get some fish out of the freezer and knew I was officially knit-mad.

It's the moths, you see. I don't actually have any, but I do have an awful lot of wool around every room of the house - about twice as much as I did last year when I only had a few projects out at a time - so every time I see  moth fluttering around inside I kind of freak out.  Even though every moth I've seen is the same as every other moth that's accidentally flown into the house over the years, aka not the kind that eats wool.

I freak out about moths because of other people's trouble with them: just last week, I talked to one friend who's still battling moths that came into the house five years ago in a bulk purchase of flour, and another who's moved to a new place with an old moth infestation. 


Skipping over what it would mean to have wool-eating moths in my own house, here is the sort of thing I am doing to be ready for the warm months when my woolies aren't needed:

Putting any new stash into plastic bags that seal - you know which brand I'm talking about - to join the existing stash.

Putting the clean socks into the freezer for a few days, then taking them out for a few, then freezing them again just in case there are any moth eggs in there, then putting them into sealed bags for the duration.

Washing all the wool sweaters and felted wool garments - the latter are easy, since they can be machine washed and dried, but the Carrot Cardi is currently monopolizing a few blocking pads where I would like to block out the Sock Sweater.

Uneasily eying the current works in progress and putting any that look even close to not getting attention for a week into more sealable plastic bags.

Laying the woolies out in the sun - moths dislike bright light and extreme temperatures - is also on the agenda.  Nothing's too good for my wool, I tell ya!  Especially in the face of an imagined threat.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Measuring up

Two things for Tuesday:

This is my little Lantern Moon sheepy friend, aka the tape measure I keep on my desk (not to be confused with the tape measure in my tool bag, the tape measure in my stash cupboard, or the tape measure that got lost under the sofa cushions or worse.)

You press his tummy to release the tape, but which end do you think the tape actually comes out of?

I always guess 'head'.  I've had this sheep for at least three years and I still guess 'head'.

(it's 'tail'.  which speaks to the sewing skill of the good people at Lantern Moon.)

This is my sock sweater.  I know it looks like it would fit a 12 year old if I join the yoke now, but when I swatched the yarn really did stretch out a lot so in theory these pieces are all the exact right length for joining.

Yeah, I don't believe it either.

But if I second-guess myself and knit the pieces longer, I might end up in a dress with Neanderthal arms so... I had a bright idea.

I will thread the stitches onto yarn holders and block the pieces to see how much they grow! brilliant, yes?  but it'll have to wait, because all my sweater drying space is taken up with another project called Preparing For Summer (moth avoidance edition.)

Have a great day!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hopelessly overcommitted

It finally hit me this weekend, when I was organizing my little bags from Tinyhappy (and the big one from Viola) into 'knitting at the party', 'knitting at the car', and 'knitting to finish': I am drowning in a sea of unfinished projects.

That is a misleading photograph because the second-biggest bag (sock sweater) has two sleeves tucked into it for the simple reason that I needed their bags as transportation for other things.  Also, I realized later that the purple baby sweater isn't in there - I didn't have a bag for it so it ended up in a bowl in the kitchen for 'knitting while cooking'.  This is just the things I work on every day or two, too - not the ones I've neglected lately.

We've been talking a bit about multiple projects versus serial monogamy over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies.  I used to be a one-project-at-a-time girl but that was because I was a student, seriously broke and moving house every 4-8 months.  I suspect this creative and spatial poverty is why I keep gorging at the banquet of my current stash now. 

The upside: you have knitting that works for every occasion (see 'party', 'car', 'cooking' above).  You never need to be not knitting. 

The downside: you are never not knitting, never free in your mind because there is always something you could be working on. If you are me, you are usually harbouring a little bonus guilt.

Also if you are me and essentially a product rather than process knitter, it's just not good.  Two or three rotating projects, absolutely.  More than four?  Not relaxing.

All of which is to say that last night I sat down with my Ravelry project page and cleaned it up; I put two projects I want to work on but aren't as much of a priority right now (my mawata mitts and my Mariner sweater) into hibernation, and I loaded up the recent secret shawl because it's finished (reward!), and the recent secret socks I probably didn't mention starting because they aren't (accountability.)

And today I feel a bit cleaner.

That would be the end of today's post but just in case anybody was wondering how the first chemo cap is coming along, here it is:

More on that later.  Have a great Monday!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Off the top of my head

Classic me: no sooner did I finish rasping out to my mum between throat lozenges yesterday the heartwarming story of the shawl I finally finished - the moral being that I learned I have to stop externalizing stress in my knitting so I can actually cast off stitches and move on through my list - than I was struck by the fact that the weekend is imminent and my friend with breast cancer could be starting chemo in just one week.  Forget the Cardi KAL and the sock sweater, I gotta knit some chemo caps!

It's not as bad as my usual panic though.  Obviously I was mulling this problem over in my head since she told me she's not well, because when I got home I effortlessly typed up the instructions for a design I worked out on the bus, and then I started looking for a critical pattern book.

Here's the plan: I'm going to use some Twisted Fiber Art Playful - an impossibly soft, springy superwash merino - to make a sleep cap with enough brim detail to be wearable for show if she really does lose her hair and she needs something in the fall.  (I didn't know till I designed my first cloche and people started writing me about it that your head gets cold at night with no hair; honestly, the depth of things we can take for granted is quite amazing.)

Then I'm going to get out my undyed organic cotton to - well, I have to say 'interpret' rather than 'make' because that yarn is about double the size of what's called for - the cover hat for Laura Irwin's Boutique Knits.

I'm quite nervous about this project.  Well, both of them, though the sleep cap literally might never see the light of day.  My friend is just super chic, not in a dressy-uppy way but more of a European-artist way (like Ady, she could wear a carry bag from an old-lady dress shop and it would look like an indy designer spent weeks crafting it) and if I make her something I want her to know I've honoured that.

Probably I was externalizing the stress of that nervousness when I realized at 10 last night that my copy of Boutique Knits was no longer on the shelf beside my desk.  That shelf got so crowded recently I had to prune out anything that wasn't specifically for reference and I moved a bunch of books elsewhere.  That's got to happen again by the way - did you know about the soon-to-be-released Fleece and Fiber Sourcebook? Drool.

Anyway I also couldn't find Boutique Knits on the shelf in the basement I moved stuff to.  Or on the shelf in the storage room where the vintage knitting and sewing brochures are.  Or in my yarn cupboard where I keep a small bucket of magazines.  Or back on the reference shelf or in the basket with the original overflow of the reference shelf.


Finally when I had given up I remembered I put it on a shelf in the living room, with two other pattern books I know I will knit something from eventually.

Criminy, aren't I lucky that having too many books and not enough space is my biggest personal problem this week?

I hope you all have a beautiful, in-the-moment weekend and that you'll pop back in on Monday to see how the cap project is coming along.  Ideally, I'll have a picture to share, even if it's only of some random squirrel!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

It's definitely not winter

The weather hasn't been warm long enough for me to be used to the amount of green outside the window over my desk.  So much green!  All the early morning sunlight is filtering through it.  Someday I would like to knit with this shade of green - moments of dark dappled by lightening shades of almost yellow.  With a few shots of lilac or blossom thrown in.

For now though I'll settle with spruce.  Yep, cast on my Deco yesterday in spruce! And that's all I did, because the sewing project proved almost insurmountable and wasn't done till after 11.  I have two more things to sew in the next two weeks and I don't want to do either and I think I might give myself a pass and go shopping instead because honestly.  Life is too short.

Seriously, my neighbour for whom I baked cookies after her mum died?  She told me that her mum lived by the motto 'This life is not a dress rehearsal.'  Knowing it is one thing, living it is the important thing.  And if I am not enjoying time with my beautiful old Singer right now, well, there are other places I can definitely spend it.  Like with my spinning wheel.

Can't do that today either though because I'm off to see my own mum.  No spinning wheel, no Deco - golly I'm off to a good and typical start on this knitalong, aren't I - but also: no sewing.  Huzzah!  And no tripping over the ironing board either.  I had left it out in front of the washing machine, the only place I can use it without setting off the smoke alarm (ask me how I know) so I would be annoyed enough to get the sewing done and it still took me all day to give in.  Now that it's away again, my reward is... so much laundry, so little time.

Time is what I am thinking about today, looking out my window.  It just runs out so fast!  When I was a kid, it was the reverse, and summers dragged on forever.  It took me years of working in an office to realize that things don't actually slow down and stop in the summer - they get busier.  They get slow in the winter, over the religious holidays and a little beyond while people catch up again, in between rushing to finish well at year end and stepping up the rush for tax season and beating their way through waves of colds and 'flu.

I think this is why I love knitting so much.  It's not that I love wearing knitted things, though I have come to love that, or that I think I'm so skilled, because I will always avoid anything tht looks too tricky.  It's because I can double the time available if I can knit while doing something else.  Not always - not if I did wade into something tricky - but often.

I'm taking the bus to see mum, which takes longer than driving.  But you know what? I bet I can finish the second sleeve of the sock sweater during the trip.  And I am really anxious to finish that sweater, even though it is definitely not winter, and - judging by all the green out there - won't be for quite a while.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Knitting cardigans with friends

A bunch of us over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies are morally supporting each other over knitting a cardigan for the fall (whatever weight of sweater that means for each knitter's region and personal comfort range.)  Starting... today!

If you're a Ravelry member and want to join us, feel free to tag your cardi project with 'ktccardikal'.

I haven't done that yet myself though because I am not ready for the knitalong. (and not just because I have a big sewing project to start and finish before bedtime.)

My pattern is chosen: Deco, by the clearly totally brilliant Kate Davies.

Yarn: St-Denis Nordique, 100% non-superwash wool that knits like a dream and is soft after blocking.

Knitting Location: the sofa or the car - the yarn's on a cone and way too heavy to travel.

Goal: Oh, I shouldn't say this, but I really want to knock it out of the park by the end of the month.  Madness.

Problem: Gauge.

Apparently row gauge is important and I can't get it - I get to 1" 2 rows faster than I ought when I'm even close to stitch gauge.  In the night though it occurred to me that this may be because I'm counting the pattern's slipped stitch, which disappears into the back of the fabric.  I'm going to investigate that point this morning.  If I don't find out though, I'll just go with the needles I think will work and sort out the row problem as I go.

Bigger Problem:  Colour.

I still can't decide!!!  It's down to spruce or camel, and I have a number of criteria for choice, and none of it is helping.

Spruce is fabulous for my own colouring, camel washes me out.  But the cardi has a U-neck so, you know.  Not really relevant.

Spruce is darker and therefore more slimming, camel is the reverse but will also show the stitch pattern better.

Both colours look great with a selection of the Twisted yarns I'm also trying to decide about ordering (which means I'm not getting much help about them either.)

I still have a few hours before I have to commit - there's that sewing thing, and then the gauge issue - but gosh.  I keep telling myself this is a project I'm wearing, not displaying, and it should flatter me, not my knitting skills... but on the other hand, what else would I use the camel for?  A low-necked cardi I'll layer under more colourful things is the perfect neutral application.


I just hope the sewing goes fast...