Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Copenhagen Hat

Whew! It's always such a relief when I can finally show and tell the secret stuff I've been working on, in this case from last spring.

Interweave very kindly accepted this idea for the 2011 Accessories issue, which I must say looks amazing - check out the preview, or if you're a Raveler, the Ravelry page!  I just love the handwarmers on the cover, and there's a cool headband pattern that must knit up in a couple of hours (aka, perfect project for those of us who are gift-challenged at the moment.)  There are more pictures of my hat here.

I knit this hat so many times on the bus to and from visits with my mum.  First it was too wide, then it was less too wide, and the whole time it was insanely convenient to work away at even while walking between connections. 

I played with the buttonholes forever and came up with a technique that produces an unambigous opening your button can't miss - and then we had to figure out how to describe it so it sounds just as fuss-free as it really is. 

And all that knit and purl - well, I rigged it in the part that's worked flat so it's as much knit as can be, because I'm nice (read: lazy).  Bonus moment: it just folds itself in at the back instead of pushing itself off your head when you turn or raise your shoulders.

The point of the idea, for me, was to have working buttons that let you play with how low it goes over your eyes or ear by slipping a hole over a higher button, or leaving some undone.

But once it was done I loved even more how it just plops down over your head like a blanket and doesn't muss your hair.

And really: Rowan Felted Tweed?  it produces the yummiest, supple fabric for not a lot of money, which is hard not to get excited about - especially when you only need one skein.

(which is how much I have stashed, in grey... should I make another of these so I have two?)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christmas, imminent; Me, unready

The Christmas knit plan is kinda killing me this year.  I have yarn, I have needles galore, I have 15 people who rate a handknit something - heck, I even have time to knit, but I have barely started.  It's all well and good to say that these three people will get cowls and those four will get handwarmers and the other two will get hats, but what colour?  and also, what pattern? 

Not helping: the discovery that Hannah is not the only person on the list who is favouring purple this year, of a shade not compatible with most of my stash of so-called neutrals.

Still, quiet progress has been happening in my subconscious.  Just this morning I realized that the new Berroco Ultra Alpaca is the right weight after all for my aunt's Turkish Bed Socks, thanks to my ridiculous gauge issues.  Of course in the meantime I'd finally found the perfect cowl pattern for Cowl Giftee #1:

Isn't it pretty?  Also: crazy fast and easy to memorize.  Which is nice because, knit on circulars like this, it makes perfect travel knitting.  I've always loved this candle-flame stitch pattern and never had the time to try it, so that's a double bonus: it's going to a singer and I just think that makes it more meaningful given all the pictures of Christmas carolers singing by candlelight.  If you're interested in making one too it's the Candle Flame Cowl by the generous genius Julia Allen - the link is to a free Ravelry download and I think you don't have to be a member to access it.  Fingers crosssed (though if you're not a member, it's so worth joining.)

I should state the obvious here - this particular yarn is the perfect shade to match everybody's purple-isms.  And I only bought two skeins, which means I will be lucky if there is enough left after the cowl and the bed socks to use for accents in the remaining projects whatever they might prove to be.  Maybe I should go back to the yarn store?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Please knit now

Check out this WWII postcard my cousin sent me from England:

It says, 'Our Jungle Fighters Want Socks' and 'For information, patterns and wool contact...'

Okay, so I would feel a lot better if I were actually knitting for soldiers but the postcard did make me feel a little better about working on socks instead of Christmas presents.

Sorry about the painful-looking bend on that one foot.  I just really wanted to show off the toe.

As you can see I've gotten rather a long way with these alpaca lovelies.  And the heels come pretty close to matching up in spite of my not having tried too hard to start at the same point in the contrasting yarn's purple stripe. It's leftover Duchess yarn from Twisted Fiber Art, in the club-specific Dusk colourway.  I might even be able to squeeze some into a third pair of socks, but I'll have to keep you posted on that one.  I think the colours go together all right here, don't you?

Having come this far I could easily finish these socks today but... you know.  I'm supposed to be knitting Christmas presents.  (and tomorrow will do just as well I'm sure.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

Christmas knitting (but not from stash)

I had several ideas about this year's approach to Christmas knits, the main one of which was to have it all done by the end of November.  But between leaping from idea to another and getting sidetracked by socks and hats for me, I seem to be only this far in:

Also, I suspect my original idea of knitting a lot of little things I like and then releasing them to the person they've magically revealed being for is actually less wacky than picking a pattern and yarn and person before I cast on.  I cite Hannah's hat and handwarmer set as primary proof - even before I saw that her coat will clash horribly with them, I was starting to feel they were really meant for somebody else.  Plus, the handwarmers up there, the ones I knit last summer for Carol?  I think they're for somebody else too - and not Hannah either.  GAH.

None of this helps me solve the problem of what to give the one key person I need a cowl and handwarmer set for.  I've had trouble committing to yarn, pattern, and colour all this time, the result being that Omigosh it's nearly December and I haven't even started.  I can knock those gifts off in about five days of casual knitting, but that's not much comfort right now.

Enter Trish, who had reason (owing to having won prizes for her knitting at a recent Fair) to make a roadtrip to Mary's Yarns - a fabulous shop in a picture-postcard village - and invited me to come along.  I got some tools...

... replacements for the hooked cable needle I still can't find, plus a fun set of 7mm dpns because I have some bulky yarn I'd like to turn into hats...

... and some yarn.  I bought it to make Turkish Bed Socks for my aunt, but when I got home I realized it is really going to be the cowl and handwarmer set that have been blocking me for weeks (I should have guessed something was up when I bought what is essentially DK weight for a fingering pattern.) 

Instead of a fussy lacy cowl, I'm going to take this butter-smooth merino/alpaca blend and knit a Bandana Cowl, possibly with a splash of contrast yarn for interest.  And then maybe another pair of the Churchmouse handwarmers to go with, with some tweaking so the stitches match up to the cowl. 


Not that I'm out of the woods: the one negative about the Berroco yarn is that it stretches out on blocking, so I'm going to have to swatch very carefully not to make the cowl more of a wrap.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The day of thanking

Being Canadian, I had my turkey day a few weeks back, but why be thankful just once?  Here is what makes me give thanks today:

Having finished Hannah's handwarmers:

and her hat:

What does not make me give thanks:

The discovery yesterday that Hannah's winter coat is a decidedly non-complementary shade of PURPLE.

La la la - happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Still knitting (socks)

Even though I have, as you know, a rather long list of Christmas knits (and Christmas sews, and Christmas baking, and Christmas events that will take up valuable time for the aforementioned Christmas-ings) I seem to be not yet panicked about them.

Evidence A:

Oh, honestly.  Can you blame me?  It's cold out there, and incredibly soft and cuddly over here in the alpaca field.

I am being a cleverboots and using up the more-likely-to-be hardwearing remains of my most recent socks in the form of heel and toe, and I think the colour match is pretty perfect.  Pretty, anyway. 

I can't wait to wear these.  And I swear having them on will make me bake faster.  That's how knitting works, right?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Not quite ready for prime time

Being a grownup in a city where it gets cold every year I'm a little amazed that my existing and vast supply of hats, coats, and boots isn't cutting it all of a sudden. 

On the other hand, it's also years and years since I've had to commute several days a week for about 90 minutes on and off public transit and then stand in the cold for 15 or 20 more.  Think about it: you gotta be warm enough for the outside, with shed-able layers for the all-too-brief inside periods, and your boots gotta not cripple you.  Which in my case is a tall order, what with the whole orthoticky thing.

Add to that: a coat that is super lightweight, because you know I'm not just frolicking for the duration of this long haul.  I'm carting stuff.  And it's heavy.  I tried it one day with my existing long wool dress coat and whoa: never again.

So I bought a new down coat from Land's End.

It makes up for being fairly shapeless and puffy by being super warm and incredibly light - and I know the picture is a bit pale owing to the sunshinyness issue,  but isn't it a pretty colour?  I could have ordered black, but I thought it might be nice to have a steely blue-grey to stand out a bit this year.

The catch: this coat clashes with Every. Hat. I. Own.

All of them.

Even the plain black felted one I bought 15 years ago, which implies a kind of 1930s style and therefore just looks horribly wrong.

Is this sinking in for you too?  All those luxurious hats from hand-dyed fibers on my shelf are crying while I go out hatless, totally warm apart from the top of my head.  This can't go on!!

Fortunately, I have more raw hat materials in the house, including some Malabrigo Silky I bought before I knew how hard variegated yarns are to work with:

I don't know how the picture shows up on your screen, but in real life it is a perfect match.

The second catch:  Malabrigo Silky is known for stretching and sagging out after you knit and block your project.  So I'm being a smarty smartpants.  I have knit a long strip of garter stitch and blocked it:

and at some point I am going to wrap it around my head to see how tight it should be, then stitch it into a round band with a decorative button on the fold before I pick up stitches from the top edge and knit the warm part of a hat.

If I don't freeze first.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Gnomes vs Snowmen (knit version)

I had the most marvelous long weekend - or what passes for one here - clearing my kitchen counters, my desk, and my inbox.  Finally! I thought, I can peruse the link Binnie sent me days and days ago (days and days = 3).

Would that I had done this sooner, though a laugh is a laugh any old time.  It seems the obviously brilliant Anna Hrachovec knit a modern interpretation of the Bayeux Tapestry, substituting gnomes and snowmen for the armies and adjusting weapons and battles to suit.

You can go through the entire show catalogue to get the full story, but I do not recommend drinking anything while you do it - your keyboard will not thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Words words words

which is to say: I could not take pictures before dark yesterday and it is still too dark now.  (also, really cold out!) so you have to put up with just me and a lot of links today.

but if you hang on long enough, there is big news near the end of this post.

News items

My right elbow hurts.  Is it possible I've been knitting too much?  Trish says maybe, so I will try to rest it.


I buckled under the cold weather pressure and bought a new coat.  It is a pretty blue-grey and very lightweight and crazy warm but clashes horribly with Every. Hat. I. Own.  (yes, in spite of my having scads of hats, this is possible. I didn't believe it either.)

I found some yarn in my stash that matches the coat perfectly.  I'm working on a hat design idea that involves no swatching; I'll keep you posted.

The non-swatchy idea might work for the bulky yarn I wanted to knit instead of knitting Christmas presents, too.  I might try to resist this possibility.  Or... I might not.

Doing a random pattern hunt at Ravelry involving no search words whatsoever, I found Milo (scroll down at the link), a child's vest.  Hello, no-brainer?

I woke up this morning with an idea at the very front of my brain for the perfect solution to Christmas-cowl-from-handspun-yarn problem, similarly non-swatching.  Again: keeping you posted.

The big news:

The French edition of the first pattern book of Biscotte designs is coming available in mid-December but can be pre-ordered now; I'll let you know as soon as I hear when the English edition is available, but in the meantime you can see the pictures of what's included, like my scarf - it's this one - and more importantly, This Hat.  Which is in the book.  Yes, and the matching handwarmers.  You don't have to wait till next year after all (and you shouldn't!)

and finally...

Yesterday I treated myself to a lot of delicious teas and things to eat with same, so I am looking forward to a great weekend.  Also: a great breakfast.  See you Monday!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Christmas knitting progress report

I almost called this entry 'No Knitting' because I have caught myself several times this week just collapsed on the sofa with nothing in my hands, staring at something on the TV that isn't even very interesting.

I think I must be tired?

However: I did knit a little on three different things yesterday - SuperSecret ScarfyThing while commuting for errands (during which yes, I bought myself another eccentric dress; something must be very wrong with me), alpaca socks while waiting for Hannah to come over, then Hannah's Christmas hat after she was gone.

Illustration of tiredness: Hannah's presents become so much an autopilot go-to knit, I had to actually allow myself the indulgence of working on the socks, totally forgetting that I ought not to be caught knitting somebody's gift by that very somebody.  Yeesh.

Without further ado:

First Hannah-mitt finished on November 12

Second Hannah-mitt started on November 13

Second Hannah-mitt finished on November 14

(and no, I haven't run in the ends yet.  or fully accepted the fact that somehow I managed to make the mitts marginally different in width.)  Hannah hat started on November 15

... and continued on November 16

... and continuing today, though I'm pretty sure I'm near the end.  I had hoped to be finished a gift every day or two till I'm done, and I'm counting a single mitt as a gift because I can, so I think I'm still on track.  But I'm gonna have to get over the tired thing, and soon.  Criminy!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Knitting for babies redux

Some friends of mine are expecting a baby boy in January, so of course I was planning to knit something. The question is, what?  Because fresh as I am from the baby cardi it took me six months to produce, I'm torn between

Oooooh, new baby - must knit!


Oooooh, new baby - off to Baby Gap!

Since the baby isn't two for another two and a half months I've been putting off committing to a pattern.  I did design a blanket in my head for a project, but I'm not sure I have time to knit a whole blanket given everything else that goes on here, so I'm trying to avoid thinking about that.

Panic: on the weekend I was invited to a shower for the baby.  Which is happening this weekend.

Disclaimer: I responded to Panic by heading straight for Baby Gap.

And now I am reminded that two and a half months that have Christmas in the middle are the knitting equivalent of two and a half weeks, and I gotta get going.

I fell in love with and have been obsessing about a little vest I saw on Amanda Soule's blog - scroll down at the link - called In Threes.  Prepare yourself for a lot of Ravelry links by the way, with apologies to those of you who are not Ravelry members - a lot of designers offer their patterns though free downloads there and there's no other way to link to 'em.  I linked to blogs where I could.

Back to In Threes: this little sweetie is essentially the baby cardi I knit last time, but in one colour and without the sleeves.  I can think of all kinds of reasons a mother and baby would love this garment, mainly to do with the extra layer of squish and soft under the mum's hand and the core warmth for the baby, who is free to suck his or her hand and flail around generally.

But... well, I took it over to Knitting and Tea and Cookies and we agreed it's really more girl than boy.

Now, Pebble does not have the girly problem to worry about, and it looks like a superfast and extraordinarily sensible knit.

Except... well, the multiple-time mothers at Knitting and Tea and Cookies pointed out that buttoning up that many buttons is a crazymaking exercise.

Hert kindly suggested Kelly Brooker's Newborn Vertebrae, which is a long cardi without the front - or rather just enough front to stay on.  Fast and sensible for putting onto a baby who is clutching onto your body and needs just a warm back.

It's just... I'm not 100% in love, and I'd like to be if I'm going to not knit other things to do it.  You know?

Mamie1 has had speed and success with the Owlie Sleep Sack, and I was sold on that instantly because it's adorable.  And functional! because you can tuck a baby up in it now, then use it as a surprise bag for stuffies and other toys later.

Then I noticed the big disclaimer at the pattern site that says this sack is not for sleeping in, for safety reasons.  Well, yes.  And now I'm thinking, why tempt fate?

Finally I thought to check my own library for baby patterns, and remembered how much I like the Baby Soft Cardigan from The Knitter's Book of Yarn.  It's got the kind of sleeves I invariably sew in lumpy... but it's a fast knit.

Oh dear, what to do.  Other than Baby Gap again, I mean.

(Maybe a few pairs of Kelly Brooker's Vanilla soaker pants?  Because regardless of what sort of diaper goes underneath, they'd be awful cute.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Just before I went to visit this year's prizewinning fleece at the Fair, I spotted a booth selling alpaca yarns and kits and finished products, and kinda thought H'mmmm.  There was a little basket with some skeins of sock yarn and I thought double H'mmmm, remembering the alpaca Ady gave me in the summer, which I immediately wanted to turn into socks and didn't, after some discussion about whether alpaca can really hold up to that, even with 20% nylon added. (consensus: no.) 

The skeins in this basket were 70% alpaca and 30% nylon.  More H'mmmm.

As I wandered off toward fleece and other exciting distractions, I pondered the sock yarn in the basket, which had the following compelling feature:

the words 'light DK' on the label. 

also known as 'these socks will knit up so fast you'll think you've got lightning in your hands.'

But I had to think about it.  The colours I noticed first were a denim blue with rose, and a green with yellow.  I know it's a big draw when something looks great with jeans, but apart from a single denim skirt I don't actually wear jeans as they are insufficiently like pyjamas.  And I don't wear lollipop green or yellow.

By the time I came to my senses and went back to the booth:


A gentleman was removing the now-empty basket, and another lucky knitter was paying for a large heap of sock yarn. 

I was just about to be crestfallen when I saw that three skeins remained, hanging on hooks above where the basket had been.  And two of them were guess what?

Apparently there were 100 skeins of sock yarn at the start of the Fair and I bought numbers 98 and 99.

(while buying them, I realized that I was buying yarn from the very same Meadowview Alpaca Farm where Ady bought the original yarn.  so now I'm thinking again of turning that into socks.  realizing it was the same shop and saying so also made me forget to take my credit card away with me, a fact I didn't discover till I got home and found a voice message to suggest I might want to come back and get it, which tells you how exciting the whole thing was.)

All that happened on Friday night and you can imagine how the rest of the weekend unfolded even though I was supposed to be making a Christmas present, once I established that some hardwearing DK yarn left over from earlier socks is an acceptable heel-and-toe colour match for the denim alpaca.

First the skeins turned into something knittable.

Then the knittables turned into cakes divided for socks.

And then, late Sunday afternoon - against my better judgment - one of the cakes turned into a cuff.

(but I'm still gonna try to finish the Christmas presents first.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Step away from the fleece

A week or two ago Trish called my attention to the fact that after people have submitted their sheep's fleeces for judging at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, and the prizes have been awarded, the winning fleeces are auctioned off. 

To, you know, people.  Who can then have the fleece prepared for spinning or knitting or dyeing and spinning and/or knitting or whatever. 

Now, I already knew about the whole business of buying a fleece, going in with a friend or two to do it if it seems like more than one could knit in a lifetime.  It just hadn't occurred to me that I might do this at some point.  And I suspect that if my stash could sustain me through a two-year yarn drought, Trish's could sustain a family.  I might add that Trish does not spin (despite my best efforts to lure her into that whole realm of addiction), further reducing the appeal of such a project.

So of course, we discussed the dates and time of the upcoming auction and agreed that we would not do a thing about it.

And then I went to the Fair.


More sighing.

Oh the sighing.

Next year.  Next year!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Onwards and... onwards

Supersecret ScarfyThing is done! Long live Supersecret ScarfyThing (the second.)

While that project goes quietly along in the background, let me tell you that I've been moving forward with the Christmas Plan.  I identified yarn for the Eleanor cowls I wanted to make, printed the pattern, assembled likely needles, and sat down to do a gauge swatch before coming to my senses.

I mean honestly.

Have you looked at that chart?  I'm sure it's not hard really, and the many many people who have knit the cowl all say how much they enjoyed doing it, but even I can see it's not practical for me to knit two of them - one flat, one in the round - plus 14 other things, plus SuperSecret Scarves, just when all the Christmas baking is coming up.

Plus, the people for whom I intended them, though lovely, are neither blood relatives nor friends from decades past.  If I want to do something special for them, would it really be so much worse to knit cowls of my own design from (chunky, and therefore superfast to knit) yarn I spun myself?

Reality: I'm facing it.

What I did start knitting was another Flight of the Phoenix handwarmer

Now these things, I could knit forever.  But they're so fast I won't be (even though I am finally well enough to head back to see Carol, my trainer, this morning.  Yay! I think.)

See you Monday!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Sickbed knitting

Sick: I am it again.  I noticed a scratchy throat in the night early last week and by the weekend my voice was nothing more than an intermittent squeak.  Thanks to a whole lotta tea and water and the occasional glass of orange juice plus lots of sleep, I can now do the gargling gravel trick.  Go me!

The relationship between illness and knitting is complicated.  My cousin, on hearing I felt like roadkill, said "Rest up! Drink lots of tea and don't knit!" My friend, who isn't coming over today so I can finish getting better, said "Hope you get lots of rest and knitting time!"

So, is knitting relaxing and feel-bettery, or a drain on one's recovery energy?

Supporting my friend's view I present Saturday: my worst day, spent on the sofa watching a lot of movies and knitting the hat I got obsessed with making after I saw Sandra knitting one in similar colours the day before.

(It's made up of leftover shawl yarn so I have a set for the winter, and it came out pretty much as I hoped it would and doesn't look too bad on me, it was pretty good to knit although A Very Bad Thing Happened* when I was making it, and while it took me the entire day I did finish by bedtime.  Go me, again!)

Supporting my cousin: since then, my knitting plans have been interrupted and slowed by naps.  A lot of naps.  Like yesterday, I keeled over for what I hoped would be a short rest and clawed my way off the bed about two and a half hours later.  I so could have been telling you that I finished SuperSecret ScarfyThing if it hadn't been for that, and I fear today won't really be an improvement because even though I have been up for about an hour and have nearly finished drinking a cup of seriously high voltage tea I am finding it hard not to fixate on my pillow.

In good news, I did manage to finish off the second yoga sock this week:

Which makes my finished Christmas Knits pile look like this:

Whoooo! Go me, bigtime!  Two whole presents.

Yikes.  Boy do I need to get healthy again.

* The hat has a few cable twists in it, and at one point I stood up and my hook-shaped cable needle - my speediest and therefore my favourite - fell off my lap and dinged twice on the floor before disappearing.  I have looked, I have had two friends look, we have moved furniture, we have used flashlights.  We haven't found it.  I shudder for my Bellatrix socks.  Thank goodness Trish and I have an LYS date for next week; hopefully I can buy a replacement.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Secrets I've been keeping

Every so often I check in at Ravelry to see how I'm doing with projects and I can't believe how many I've pulled off this year (31 started and finished, so far.)  But what really amazes me is when I remember a lot of those were things I also designed, and that I also took time to spin yarn.  How the heck do I get all that stuff done?  And how much writing could I do if I wasn't doing it?


Anyway as November progresses we get closer to December, when - I am pretty sure - most of the stuff I designed in 2011 will be making its way out into the sunshine. 

Like the two patterns I've just left with my technical editor (one of them is going to knock your socks off; the other might put them on.) 

Or the things that other people wanted to publish (including the amazing supersecret item I kinda tortured you guys with last spring.)

What won't be coming out that soon is the SuperSecret ScarfyThing.  And I really want to tell you about that  even though I can't show it to you, because it's so SuperAwesome in its portability and I'm just too happy not to say Yay.

Remember all the trouble I had in the fall carting socks around on the subway?  Well, I don't have that problem anymore thanks to SS ST. 

It's knit with yarn that comes in 50g balls, and because it's worked flat I can use a fold-up friendly circular needle instead of long straights or extra pointy dpns. 

The stitch pattern is ridiculously easy to remember and execute - I got in some serious distance on it at a concert one afternoon, with no need to look at the needles - and every few rows there is a change that serves as a clear progress point before going back to the same old same old.

(except the same old same old gets prettier the more there is of it, to say nothing of the drape that unfolds as you go, so it kinds gets new instead.)

And the yaaaaarrrrn... okay, I'm being cruel now.  But it's soft, and even though the ScarfyThing gets long fast it's actually just fingering so you can fit a lot of yardage into that 50g ball.  I was able knit miles of it before adding a second ball and making it a little too bulky for my purse.

Which is where we get to the downside of the SS ST.  It's so awesome, you have to kind of hide working on it lest somebody ask you to make another.  And the upside: when that happens, you have a new SS ST to cart around for when the old one gets too big. Ahem.

But enough chat, I have a date with some old movies and the original SS ST; I wanna finish it today so I can sneak in some time on a certain bulky hat tonight.  Or, um, a Christmas knit.  Yeah, that's it.  Christmas.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Knitting fondant

While hunting for needles to cast on a Christmas project (not the bulky hat I'm obsessing about, because I am a better person than that), I discovered them already stuck into a partially completed yoga sock:

I totally forgot I'd cast these on, and I can only dimly remember working on them with future gift-giving in mind while my mum was in the hospital a year and a half ago.  I was using them as panic-control knitting and apparently when the panic subsided my interest in the socks did too.

Indecision resulted from the discovery.  First thought: finish them, and throw them in the Christmas pile.  Second: rip them out and get those needles free again . Third: are you crazy? finish them.  Fourth, while nearing the toe: I just can't, please let me rip these out now.

I opted to stick with them, mainly because the darned things remind me so much, in this yarn and colour, of fondant.

Fondant Story.

From the ages of around 11 to 14, I was best friends with a girl so completely different from me we could have had our own sitcom.  Looking back I realize the reason we were so attached was not because of these fascinating differences but because we had bonded over our mutual love for candy, in all forms.

One day we were over at her house on a rainy day, aka far from any candy store with limited access to umbrellas, and there was no candy at hand, so we decided to talk her mother into letting us bake something.  I got a craving for fondant, a mostly-sugar base my mum used for all sorts of delicious treats like chocolate-dipped Easter eggs and also potatoes, dredged in cocoa for St. Patrick's Day.  I sold my friend's mother on this idea partly with 'delicious' and especially, as I have reason to recall, 'light and fluffy.'

It didn't occur to me at that age that different cooks write different recipes for the same item so I just picked the first fondant instructions I found in her mother's cookbook library.  Unlike my mum's recipe it called for 'boiled sugar'.  Could anything be more delicious sounding?  But if you have ever boiled sugar yourself you will know it's tricky to do, and can easily result in sugar burned for eternity to the bottom of your friend's mother's best pot.

I don't think I'll ever forget her saying 'LIGHT and FLUFFY??' for the rest of the afternoon in her broad Yorkshire accent as she mourned that pot.  Plus, she wouldn't let us try again with a different recipe so we never did get any fondant.

End of Fondant Story

What I've learned from this experience is that it's not really in me to knit things randomly and gift them to somebody later when I have a binful of items to shop from.  I gotta have a person in mind, and a date on which I'm giving it, or I can't produce the goods.  Eventually I decided to give the fondant socks to Carol, who still loves the first pair I gave her and could probably use a change of colour at least, and afterward the knitting was much less agonizing.  Also: fast.  This pattern is just crazy fast to do.

Incidentally in reknitting it all this time later I did discover a couple of small errors in the original version, so I've corrected them and loaded a clean copy up at the links.

And now: back to gift knitting! but not the hat.  Nope, not casting on that hat.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Destashing for Christmas

Hello, first Monday in November!  This is the day I promised myself I would start the Christmas knitting I've been putting off since April, when it first occurred to me to get going already.

(I did knit a pair of fingerless gloves last spring... so I sort of started, but barely.)

The last few weeks I've been sizing up the people around me for knitworthiness and considering what to focus on this year.   It's not too hard - the stores here are packed full of cowls and handwarmers which have suddenly become critical accessories.  I even found a pair of fingerless gloves actually attached to fingered 'gloves' that stopped half an inch either side of the fingerless part.  I'd rather knit a ton of hats, but they can be fussy to fit, so cowls and handwarmers it is.

About 16 of them, in various combinations, because some people rate one of each. GAH.

Moving on to yarn:

This is what I started with when I went looking for yarn that is not absolutely earmarked for pattern-writing or stuff for me.  Not a bad assortment really - there's a pretty good range of styles and weights, and nothing that isn't luxurious in some way.

Oh, and also, the handspun:

At this point I feel a bit overwhelmed by choice, so instead of thinking What to make for what person, I'm thinking What can I make with What yarn.  There has been a lot me hunting Ravelry for bulky-weight cowl patterns for example.  And a lot of mulling over whether I can get away with using the superbulkiest yarn - top left corner of the yarn basket; it's discontinued Noro - for a hat for me even though I'm supposed to be thinking of others.

(this is a chronic problem, and the reason why the Christmas knitting always happens at the end of the year.)

Unfortunately this approach doesn't seem to be yielding much by way of ideas, apart from the persistent hat one I really need to ignore, or possibly consider a reward for the completion of my first three gifts. 

I know I want to knit some Eleanor Cowls.  For that I need sport weight, which I have - but in limited colour choices I'm not sure are going to be right for anybody but me.

And I really want to knit that bulky Noro hat.  Dang.  Why do I do this?

At least there's one safe project: the super fun Flight of the Phoenix set.  I can safely knit both hat and handwarmers because I already have those myself and I can use up some nice denimy yarn to do them.  Whew.  And now if you'll excuse me, I gots some knitting to do.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Five-day socks

I did it: I totally made the second sock (in Twisted Fiber Art's Duchess) in just one day.

(with perfect striping matchup, incidentally.)

My secret? I didn't eat lunch, or remember to do three of the urgent and important chores for the day. 

Also, after taking too long to chat with Trish in the morning and then with Bob in the evening - I have no excuse for Trish, since I see her a lot, but Bob and I have both been too busy to catch up since I saw him in July so I wasn't going to turf him off the phone over a personal sock challenge - I didn't bother to graft the toes shut until today,

after a fun coffee date with Sandra.  She showed me the school-colours hat she's making and I had more hat envy, not least because it's getting cold again and it would be great to have a hat to match the cashmere-blend Escapist shawl I was wearing.  I'm sure the fact that the golden yellow of my shawl matches one of the stripes in her hat has nothing to do with the sudden desire to cast on.

But I think I will restrain myself because next week I am starting the Christmas knits.  And the sewing festings.  And maybe three more pairs of these socks because here is the deal:

I pulled off these socks in five days, people.  Five days!  And I coulda done it in two, if nobody called and/or I didn't get hungry!

Yes, I know.  They're not exactly glam or inspired when it comes to the stitch, and they sag through the ankle owing to my not taking the time for ribbing, and the feet are a bit roomy, but they are comfy-warm like nobody's business.  And considering that nobody is going to see anything but the top two inches that peek out from my boots - which I contend are as cute as anybody could wish for - that's what counts.

Best of all, while I dutifully knit Christmas cowls over the rest of the month, I can be proud of knowing that not all socks take 6-plus weeks to make.  I could do a pair in six days, if I wanna.  And you know what?  If I get the Christmas knits done fast, I just might wanna.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Lookit what I did last night!

And to recap, I started it just four nights ago, and have knit a couple of other small things in the meantime.  Context: in fingering yarn, I haven't finished a pair of socks in less than six weeks.  I am so in love with DK.  And also with how perfectly these stripes came out.

Guess what I'll be doing today?

Yep.  Had to do something while I waited for enough light to take that first picture, right?  I never do this - knit one sock and then the other - so I guess this is my chance to find out what Second Sock Syndrome is like.  Somehow though I don't think it'll be a problem...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A day without knitting?

Somebody asked me when was the last time I went a day without knitting, and I really couldn't think. Even when Les died - even the day of his funeral - I knit a little.  I seem to recall though there was a day last winter when I was so terribly sick with food poisoning that I could barely lift my head off the pillow let alone get my noodle fingers to work.

I guess that's what it takes to keep me from knitting right now - disabled fingers.  It's funny to think that I went twenty years without knitting at all, and before that, when I was a teen in sweater mode, I knit only to produce cool (well, warm, technically) clothes.  I wonder whether this is a second windstorm that will pass eventually and leave me surrounded by needles and yarn I won't have any desire to touch?


Meanwhile: I finally made myself graft those sock toes yesterday.

I'm so excited to have these socks done and ready to wear:  I'm going to a Thing on Friday night for which I want to wear a new dress that matches them really well.  Maybe I can get better Finished Object pictures of them then.

And also, I finally got to open the last of my Biscotte club yarn:

You might have to click on that picture to see the special feature (hint: sparkles.)  It got a little silver in it, along with merino wool and silk and nylon.  And it's so very much my colours.

Today's challenge: a day without knitting (my new sock.)  Seriously.  In spite of getting those grafted toes out of the way, a new wrinkle popped up with another project that has to be done and dry by Friday morning.  So... that's good news, right?  I might be stopped now, but on the weekend? Look Out.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


H'mmmm.  I was supposed to graft the toes of my otherwise-finished Other Socks yesterday but...

Knitting socks in a DK weight is so addictive! Not least because it is so fast.

(seriously: I didn't start these in earnest till Saturday night, and in two days I've had time to turn the heel, knit the entire gusset, realize I made a mistake the colour change that will leave a lump under my foot, rip the entire gusset out, and start reknitting it.  And I've pulled all that off with 2.5mm needles owing to my continuing, ridiculously loose, tension.  I think I am in love.)