Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Not resisting the Irresistible pays off

Ha! you know the Irresistible project I didn't start a couple of weeks ago? It spent the night stretched out with blocking pins on some mats. Double ha!

I have so much Stuff twined into each stitch on this project. I mean, who gets obsessed with knitting a particular thing, honestly?

(I know, I know, all of us.)

But this one was different. I wanted a big shawl - why I couldn't tell you since I've never been able to carry off more than a mini one - and I looked for a couple of weeks for a pattern that matched the one I had in my head and there just wasn't one.  So even though I was trying to take a break from designing things, I climbed onto the sofa with all my stitch dictionaries and worked one out for myself, and once that was done

I couldn't stop knitting it.

No matter how cute my other projects were and you know I have a lot of them, no matter how many other things there were to do around the house and you can bet there were a lot of them, no matter how sore my fingers got - so much a lot - I just had to keep knitting, it was so gorgeous.

Even at that point I knew it had to be special and that I'd be sharing the pattern here, free.  I was very, very conscious of celebrating freedom with it myself, because this May marks two years from the start of huge, lifechanging health issues in what ended up being three different people I love, and two of the three of them have finally resolved into a manageable place. I might actually start to get some of my old life back, you know?  Definitely cause for celebration.

Then things started to go wrong with the shawl. First the stitch sequence started to get too complicated, which I didn't want, and the replacement behaved badly.  I went back to my math and back to the stitch dictionaries and frogged and reknit and frogged so many times I'm amazed the yarn held up (but it did - St-Denis Nordique, get some if you can) and finally I talked to Lannie about it.

Lannie doesn't knit, but she is in the same boat I am over this kind of stress, so I knew she'd get it. I said I thought I wasn't seeing the pattern clearly any more because the third person I love is having exactly this kind of health complication - one thing after another emerging as a problem and marring the whole, such that we keep covering the same ground and get nowhere.  And Lannie thought so too.

Well, what could I do but persist?  and then I lost my voice Sunday and had to sit on the sofa doing nothing but shawl.  I got close to finishing and thought I would - actually, I cast off about thirty stitches - and it just didn't look right, so yesterday I used my sick day to sit down with the stitch dictionaries again and work out something else.

I knit the something else, and I still wasn't sure.  I showed it to more people who don't knit and tried to explain how it would look when blocked and asked whether I should rip more and reknit again and they all said it looks good the way it is and more to the point


and I thought Oh well, what's the worst that can happen?  It's knitting, I can still get stitches back on the needle and rework it. So I blocked it.

And it's gorgeous.  Exactly what I wanted when I got its picture in my head all those weeks ago.

Then at bedtime it occurred to me that maybe I was meant to finish this particular project 31 years to the day since my oldest brother died.  Maybe it's a gift from him, a reminder that I've stood up through worse.

Either way, I'm pretty happy.  And I will release the shawl as a free Hugs pattern later in the summer... but I'm thinking I might do it as a mystery one, because we haven't had one of those in a long time. What do you think?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Not knitting on the new subway train

It's lucky I write this blog instead of podcasting it, because I woke up yesterday with no voice and it seems still to be missing this morning.  I'm so grateful for the computer; every time the phone rings now all I can do is kinda look at it and hope the caller has e-mail.

This weekend was Doors Open Toronto, an exciting venture that unfolds on weekends all across Ontario in the warmer months, and I was super excited.  The idea is that places you would normally never get to see the inside of run an open house and invite everybody who's so inclined to come out and see how they work.  About a month ago I went to a recycling plant and it was surprisingly awesome. Did you know you can get shoelaces made out of recycled plastic bags?

This time I was especially hoping to visit the water filtration plant down in the Beaches - it's a gorgous, architecturally distinctive building both inside and out - but I also wanted to check out the repair yards for the light rail transit in the east end (yes, I am a train nerd) and when the lineup there proved to be about thirty minutes long I gave up the idea of the plant, whose lineup was probably more than two hours long.  I was in it twenty years ago anyway, when they staged an art exhibit there... large paintings hung on the far side of bowling-lane pools, lit so the reflection stretched out to the viewer across rippling water?  whoa.

My point: I got stuck standing for thirty minutes in a transit line! GAH.  Worse than waiting for the Leslie bus that time it broke down.  Fortunately, I had thought to stuff a Sock Sweater sleeve in my bag.

I was just past the colour band when I started, but I also knit while touring the facility because I never get tired of that party trick.

From there, it was on to the streetcar yards in the west end.  I panicked and didn't work on my sleeve en route, lest I run out of truly portable knitting, so the purple baby sweater got some love too.

I'm nearly ready to start the fronts.(go me).  Wouldn't it be nice if I could pull all that off in the next 48 hours?  Not gonna happen, but nice to think about.

Both yard tours were interesting and informative - I got to go through a car wash on the streetcar one! - but the really big deal was the reveal, on Sunday, of the new subway train our city is getting.  Not to mention the sugar factory I was going to visit after that, because I am nothing if not all about the sugar. Then I woke up with no voice and a super sore throat.

Wanh!  at that point, I'd have waited in tons of lines to check out the train while it's all clean and new.  It's connected in such a way that the cars aren't separate any more, you see - just one long sausage you can walk right through.  No more leaping into the same train with the person you were trying to meet and not knowing it! This actually happened to me last month, but since we were getting off at the same station it didn't matter. Oh yeah, and we all have mobile phones now too.  Still.

Anyway I didn't get to go, but I did get a friend who was doing the train to take my camera along, so thank you Pete:

Can you see it tucked up there on the left with the current cars, next to the platform that hardly ever gets used?  I spend a lot of time at this station waiting for trains on the left-hand tracks.

And here it is up close:

Very glam.  Just think: someday I'll knit on this train and not even appreciate it.

I've saved some train trivia to plug in here so non-train-obsessives can skip it - consider yourself warned:

To repair the underside of a train, the cars are brought inside on their rails and positioned over open spaces on the lower level of the building; it is wild to look down from train level and see all the light and tools down there of a proper workshop, and more so to think about how big the hydraulics would have to be to get them up like a car in a repair shop.

The wheels get replaced every five years or so using an interesting and super speedy method I didn't catch all of.  But apparently we use regular train wheels instead of the rubber ones on Montreal trains because rubber wears out after 18 months and that is SUUUper expensive by comparison.  Somebody in the crowd pointed out tht the traction on a snowy rail would suffer as well, and our guide said that regular wheels aren't exactly gluey either when the cars they're supporting are made of fiberglass.

A streetcar wash is just like a car wash except there are a lot more windows to close before you go in.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Here a, there a, everywhere a chemo hat

Over the past couple of months I've been communicating a bit with Prairie Yarns in Fargo, North Dakota - the shop was running a chemo cap drive, and they were collecting free patterns to make available to their knitters. 

I'm always so happy when somebody can use one of my chemo patterns for donation because I get so busy obsessing about things like the Irresistible I never seem to get past designing and sample-making.  A few days ago I heard that from an initial goal of 50 hats in 50 days, the group there came up with a whopping 366 hats!

Man I would love to sit in on Prairie Yarns' knitting group - those are some great people and, I suspect, seriously fast knitters.

Anyway all that was very nice and then yesterday during a quick (because we both had to dash) catchup with a friend I really like which shouldn't matter but does, said friend told me that pretty much since Prairie Yarns' chemo cap drive started she's been diagnosed with breast cancer, had a mastectomy, and is about to start chemo herself.

Crash.  All I will say further on that is thank goodness I have a huge stash of organic undyed cotton in my stash, plus some very fine seasilk I might be able to work into something with texture and drape, an a lot of soft woolly things for sleep caps if she should in fact lose her gorgeous hair.  And I'm so glad I bought a copy of Laura Irwin's Boutique Knits when it came out, because it has two very cute cloche patterns in it.

It's so typical, isn't it, to want to do something when you can't really do anything?  I didn't cast on for a hat last night, but I sure did knit like the wind so I can once I find out what, if anything, she'd like.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Stocking stitch forever

Painfully aware that I'm participating in a cardi knitalong starting June 1, I spent some downtime on Tuesday taking stock of the current projects to figure out what I can finish before then.  The sock sweater is up there on the Want Done list not least because I strongly suspect I will need its needles to get gauge for my cardi, but the baby sweater is up there too because it's possible I might actually pull it off.

(and then there is the Irresistible, which is busy being Irresistible and cutting into project-finishing time, unless finishing a project you didn't officially start counts.)

The point is, finishing those two sweaters means a whole lotta stocking stitch.

A whole lot.

But I am nothing if not determined.  The sock sweater, now that I've confirmed my original math is correct and know how far to take the body and sleeves before joining them, is still in pieces and more or less portable.

The baby sweater, owing to the larger amount of yarn involved and the consequent twisty-knot potential, is working out better as kitchen knitting.

It's not going quite so fast as Sock Sweater (and neither of them so fast as Irresistible), but then, you only have to wait so long for a pot of tea to steep.

It would be nice to take a break from stocking stitch to swatch gauge for my June cardi, if only it too didn't have to be done in You Guessed It.  Time to borrow more movies from the library, wouldn't you say?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

For a limited time only

I have, I think, about 10 days left to decide whether I want to buy more Twisted Fiber Art yarn or fiber in this season's club colours (yes) and if so, which colours (all of them) on which base yarns or rovings (erm... all of them?) and in which colour formation - self-striping, or evolving.

GAH.  head, exploding.  too much choice!

(and, I need not say, too little bank account/storage space.)

To help you out with why I would even care, here is a sampling of colours which may or may not ever be available again:

This last one is 'Cottage', and I know for sure I am getting some of that.  The green in it is pretty close to the wool I got for a cardi and how cute would a little matching something be?

Because decisions are so hard for me I am trying really hard this time to consider what I would do with whatever small-batch yarn I might buy so I don't end up with a bucket full of Twisted I'm afraid to use wrong, which is the case for the small remaining bits of my current stash.  I'm thinking:

scarf (have a lot already plus more in the queue)

hat (ditto, and while there's always room for more, they don't use up much yarn)

shawl (so saturated with shawls right now)

socks (ditto but there is definitely always room for more of those and they do use up a lot of yarn)

mitts (Toronto is too cold for handknit mitts, on my hands anyway)

cowls (see scarf, above)

H'mmmm, so I'm pretty much looking at sock yarn, and that means:

self-striping if I can get the skein lined up such that I start in the same place because non-matchy socks make me totally crazypants, or

evolving, in which case I would need to buy two skeins of the colour in question (see above) and use up the remains in a hat.

Getting closer.  Assuming those greens do match - why haven't I checked that yet? - I'll buy some Cottage in an evolving skein for a shawl even though I don't need one, because a cardi/shawl twinset would be awesome for fall.

And I'll get another colour in 2 evolving skeins for socks.  And then my head really will explode because there is no way I can knit all that yarn plus the yarn I bought at the Frolic before the Knitter's Fair in September when you just know I will want to be shopping.

(which isn't going to stop me from going over and over this problem for a good while yet so as to justify treating myself to a little bit more Twisted.)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A two-armed purple baby sweater

Looking out my desk window it's amazing to me that as much got done over the long weekend as it did.  Watching over the last couple of months as things were growing like weeds (mostly because they were weeds) or composting where they shouldn't (fallen leaves and once-greenery next to wood structures, GAH) I worried the whole place would fall apart before I could get to it.

But it's done!

Except for the planting, and the wooden-chair staining, and the many, many hours it'll take to clear out the garage once and for all.

Oh, and the purple baby sweater. Definitely not done.  I do however have two sleeves and the start of the back:

There would be more of that if it hadn't been so guilt-induing, knitting next to where the snifffy garden* and the tomatoes had not yet gotten into dirt:

(to say nothing of some shrubbery that desperately required pruning.  honestly, gardens are just relentless.)

*sniffy garden: this starts out every spring as a pot or two of 'herbs for cooking with' but as summer wears on I get super lazy about cooking or preparing anything, let alone stuff with herbs in it, and it becomes the sniffy garden per the use to which it is most frequently put.  Mmmmm, lemon thyme.

Monday, May 23, 2011

A perfectly marvelous day

Today is the cherry on top (if you like those, which I don't but am entering into the spirit of for the purposes of this comparison) of the best-weather holiday weekend in ages.  And I'm not just saying that because I'm not spending it bent over digging out weeds from the front garden. Or clearing out the storage room or the garage or even tidying up my fabric stash - that was the last two days, which means I now have both the mental and physical space to get out the spinning wheel again.

Early this morning I took the most glorious walk to the bakery and the fruit-and-veg store, and the air was tinged with exactly the same proportions of spring scent and holiday spirit I remember from my childhood.  And when I got home again I ate a chocolate croissant with the best pot of tea I've made in years, probably.

There has been a little breeze for the last few hours, sending not only a welcome cooling current of air but also the aroma of my up-the-road neighbour's lilac straight to my porch, which incidentally is not getting a bit wet from intermittent but gentle rainfall.  The temperature is perfect, and the sunshine - there is quite a lot of that too, between silvery clouds - is dappling through leaves that came out rather suddenly all over the neighbourhood on Thursday after being in bud forever.

Now I am baking chocolate chip cookies (sadly, to give to another neighbour due back here tomorrow from her mother's funeral, but I'm doing a double batch so there will also be some for snacking on while admiring the newly-weeded garden.)

Oh, and I finished something:

and it's not even midnight yet!

(I know, it doesn't look so much like 'something' as a heap, but this is its best angle.  I'm hoping for an improvement after blocking; I'll keep you posted.)

Friday, May 20, 2011

me vs. the ants

Okay, I give in: there is some merit in putting housekeeping above knitting.  (but only some.)  A minor issue with ants in the kitchen multiplied overnight and kept me pretty busy this morning such that I - wow, it's after 11am!! - missed my 7:30am blog-posting routine.  Thank goodness I put yesterday's watermelon rind straight out into compost once it was melon-free or I might not be here now, even.  Criminy.

The crazy number of ants presents a neat parallel to the number of unfinished projects I keep feeling guilty about neglecting (why is that, anyway? It's not like anybody is waiting for any of them) and the equal number of projects I would like to have the opportunity to feel guilty about neglecting.  I'm not going to list them all here because that would be too depressing for such a lovely sunny morning as we are having here, but I will concede that I don't want to cast on for the June Cardi Knitalong with Knitting and Tea and Cookies without bumping a few of the current works into the finished object pile.  By which I mean at least two, and possibly three.

Here are some factors in my favour:

Today is the day before (or in my case the first day of) a long weekend

I've been invited to a friend's about 2 hours' drive away

Even though technically I am supposed to be getting weeds out and plants in to my garden, it's gonna rain and be miserable all day Sunday

The baby sweater is finally going along swimmingly such that I could just get on with it already

There are also some factors not remotely in my favour (see weeding and planting reference above, plus an increasingly urgent need to get back to basement-clearout totally unrelated to some cats I may or my not have visited at the local adoption centre while picking up ant traps - no really, totally unrelated, dagnabbit)


Assuming I pack well for the car, I really think I could knock at least one project off the table this weekend.

(of course this would mean keeping my hands off the Irresistible for the duration in spite of being desperate to figure out how I managed to have the right stitch count and yet be off a stitch at the very same time.  wish me luck.)

So off I go.  Happy Victoria Day if you celebrate it, and have a great ant-free weekend either way!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Me vs.the scientists

During yesterday's quest to find something to knit by I caught some of that Spencer Tracy movie where he fights to allow a teacher to teach Darwin's Origin of Species, and later a rather odd Nova episode (on DVD, borrowed from the library, and so possibly ancient) that explained e=mc2 and how I'm supposed to get a higher-uppy 2 on blogger I do not know so rest assured I mean 'squared'.

(the Nova episode was odd because so much time was spent dramatizing the love lives of the scientists it profiled.  To be sure, one did die as a result of an illegitimate pregnancy too late in life to be safe, but do we know that another spent his wedding night trying to engage his gorgeous and distracted bride in a discussion about whether a piece of metal loses mass if it rusts away?)

Most of what I took away from the day is not so much actual scientific understanding but an appreciation for the pure obsession that has to drive great scientific discoveries. The meticulous study and experimentation and notetaking and trial and error and thought and so on.  The persistence.  The tenacity, if you want another word that means the same thing and would be redundant if these people weren't just so crazypants over finding the answers to their questions.

I appreciate it because I am doing the same darn thing with Project #9, aka the one I didn't start, am not thinking about, do not feel the least bit controlled by, and for which I am not swatching and researching and notetaking and frogging and reknitting another way or thinking about. At all.  Yep: me and the scientists.  Peas in a pod.

And now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to - erm, bake brownies.  Toodles!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Mysterious Shawl: revealed

I was going to save this for a rainy day but you know what?  Turns out it's raining today. Plus, who doesn't need a bright green Zing in the middle of the week?

So here it is: I blocked the mystery KAL shawl.

Tough to get a picture of it on, by myself:

But rewarding, since there are so many different mystery stitches in it.

I got a friend to take up the camera, but only for a minute, so this is all there is of that.

Blocking it was a challenge because I had insufficient horizontal space for this much wing (I'm sorry, but there is No Way Whatsoever that I will ever pin out a blocked item on my bed; naps take priority even over knitting.)  So I folded it in half.  This made it possible to keep each point symmetrical from one side to the other without any extra blocking wires - with which I have a traditional love/hate relationship - but it also left a fold line down the middle of the shawl

which I haven't steam-ironed out yet.  Been too busy knitting (and napping!)

The Pattern: Liz Abinante's Roxanne

The Yarn:  Biscotte & Cie's Super Bambou, in an exclusive club colourway

The Modifications: This shawl takes a whole whack of yarn as written, but luckily Super Bambou comes in 115g skeins resulting in more yarn for me.  Also it has a lot of bamboo in it, and bamboo will stretch during blocking, thank goodness.  So all I had to do was leave out the last repeat of the last chart - there should be another row of lace along the perimeter - and change the recommended bindoff to a superstretchy version.

The Farewell-For-Now:

(hope your day is lovely, even if you do have rain like me!)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


I had a free hour before dashing over to Sandra's yesterday, so I cast on for the new socks (that's 8 projects again in case you were counting.)  They are going to be so cute.  Also: sensible, because I don't have any other emergency knitting of the sort one can throw into one's bag for unexpected outings or waiting room sits, a scenario which comes up ever so much more than you'd think, let alone want.

Then at the door I hesitated.  I'd set out two little Tinyhappy bags - one packed with the Stripey, one with the Socks - and because my hands were still sore neither project was any better than the other.  So I put in Stripey, and then I thought GAH and put in Socks, and then I thought GAH again and took out Socks and ran out the door.

(I was so flustered by then that I got lost on the way to Sandra's house.  Admittedly her house is about a 20 minute walk from mine so there is opportunity for getting turned around, but I've known her little area very well for lo these 12 or 13 years so that is pretty embarrassing, and cut into our knitting time too.  I didn't even have her number to call and ask for directions; I had to call another friend and explain that I was standing on the corner of this and that and could I please know how to get to there?  Terrible.  But good that we have mobile phones now.)

When I finally got to her oasis of calm and tucked up on her very nice sofa with a cup of excellent tea in one hand and a chocolate-topped cookie in the other - okay, of course I mean after I'd eaten the cookie and put down the tea but you don't get the same effect if I don't mention them - I opened up the bag and


I had neither Stripey nor Socks but Sock Sweater Sleeve #1.  Oops!

Yes, there are two sleeves since I last showed Sock Sweater, in aid of travel knitting.  I hadn't considered bringing this particular one because it was so close to decision point, but getting lost meant that I still had enough to do with it in the time we still had.  Also, Sandra was able to help with the decision, which was to put priority on the fact that it fits as it is over the fact that the stitch count isn't going to be what I was aiming for on paper.

Since we're talking about it, I've also exhausted the travel potential of the body portion of Sock Sweater:

I'm done with the first ball, and have I think slightly more length than I planned, so I have to stop working on it till the sleeves are up to where they need to be.

Here is what occurred to me while working on the sleeve:

I have alternated 2 skeins on the body to ensure colour uniformity.  I should also do this with the sleeves even though it looks like I will have enough yarn to finish them without even starting a second skein, just in case.  BUT

... after so much care, how do I account for the fact that the dye batch for the sleeves is slightly different from that of the body? What happens when I join body and sleeve - and should I go on then with the body's yarn, or the sleeves'?

Here is what I think I will do: break with brown before I get to the top of the sleeves, and throw in some more Fair Isle.  It might look odd just having that on the sleeves just there, but it might also look fab.  (and if it doesn't, I can always rip back and try something else, right?)

Monday, May 16, 2011

How many projects are too many projects?

Last week when I itemized the non-spinning-related works-in-progress (7) Heklica noted that it would freak her out if she had that many.  Instantly I thought, Gosh yeah, that would freak me out too! and I had to remind myself that we were talking about me. How is it possible that 8 (I started another on Friday) works in progress don't freak me out? 

Let's discuss.

Is it because I'm actively rotating my way through all but 2 or maybe 3 of them, and even finished one last night (yay, back to 7!)?

Is it because I move through the day in a fog of caffeine and chocolate and just don't notice the ones sitting on the sewing table?

Is it because I haven't had much opportunity or desire to sew lately such that I would see how much I would have to move from the sewing table to open it and get the machine up?

or is it just that I have become a compulsive knitter with no self-restraint?

Oh dear.

To my credit: I do knit often through most days regardless of my environment, for which not all projects are suitable or at the right stage of construction. I want something small for the bus, something mindless for public transit, something with the exact-right combination of needle and yarn size for stiff fingers, something soft on stressful days, something robust on busy days full of fortitude, and so on.

Which leads me to today's predicament:

I am going to Sandra's for knitting and tea and cookies.  Yaaayyyyy!  But I don't know what to bring.  All I care about knitting is project 8 (now 7) and it's not only too big, it's too close to a decision point.  You don't want to have to stop for something like that while visiting over tea and cookies. 

What I should bring is the stripey project - soft and friendly and mostly mindless - but this is a stiff-finger day and the needle/yarn combo can be a little awkward to manage (I know, because I tried yesterday to resist project 8/7 with it and I lasted all of three rows.)

What I could bring is sock yarn I forgot I wound into two cakes for emergency cast-on purposes, and needles, and a pattern I had drafted out in the winter and printed and put in the project cupboard and then also forgot about until I spotted said yarn and rifled through the papers in the cupboard to see if there was a good pattern for it.  Can you say, 'serendipity'?

or maybe I will bring something else entirely... like my handspun scarf?  It's probably just about perfect.

Anyway I think this is why having so many projects doesn't freak me out - I need them.  Still, I might not need ten of them, so I guess I'd better watch it. I have a bad feeling it would be pretty ugly to find out the hard way how many are too many, you know?

Friday, May 13, 2011

Not-so-girly stripes

Okay, it's time for me to face down the purple baby sweater.  When we last visited it, I had realized I did not have enough yarn to make it with just one skein, and I'd purchased a second skein of similar fiber composition in a complementary colour.

I have now reknit the first sleeve for what may be the fourth time but feels like the sixth, and this is how it came out:

(do you love the little yellow stripes in between the purple purl bumps?  I had to reduce the bump factor to make it work, but I think I love it anyway.)

As an aside, since I've solved this problem and no longer need to ask whether I should considering ripping it back again, reknitting over and over with the same yarn can lead to some seriously mangled stitches.  They may come out in the blocking and they may not, so what I did to fix the lumps visible even in this miniaturized picture was use the point of my needle to tug a little on both sides of each stitch for some distance to one side of the offending bit of mangledness.  This smoothed out the lumps and spread a little extra yarn over more of the row so it doesn't show or even feel bad (which is good news for a tiny baby.)

But here is the problem I do have:

Are these stripes just too Boy?  There's a chance this baby might be a girl, and after two boys already, my friend (who dresses her boys up on the most flimsy of excuses, and shops for them as a recreational sport) will almost certainly want to go totally girly if so.

Maybe I should rip back and vary the stripes a little more so they don't look like a rugby shirt?  Or maybe it's enough to knit little flowers and sew them on after the fact, to pretty it up.

What do you think?

(and yes, I will take utter silence as 'Don't be crazy Mary, you could have knit six baby sweaters in the time you've already spent on this one sleeve.'  It's what I'm telling myself after all.)

One thing I am sure about: my decision to knit the sleeves a little longer than the pattern calls for, since they are also a little wider than they should be, so the baby can wear the cardi longer.  I'm especially pleased with how the cuff looks from underneath,

since it's sure to be folded up for a while.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Cute baby (fiber-producing) animals

Earlier in the week I followed a directive from a certain widely-known knit blogger and went to a more or less local park to see some cherry blossoms (click here to see pictures of that.)

Obviously I don't get out enough because in spite of having lived near the park in question for a spell about 25 years ago, I didn't know it also has a zoo.

A zoo with fiber-producing animals in it, some of whom have had babies recently.  And I thought maybe you would like to see some seriously early stages of knitting instead of helping me decide whether I have to frog the baby sweater sleeve for the fifth time. (am I right or am I right?)

First up, the baby llama:

I so love the way llamas look.  You can get fiber from llamas, right?  Maybe I'm making that up.  They look totally huggable, anyway, and this baby was adorable, grazing on the grass within reach of his nose.

Beyond the llama zone, bison:

Somewhere after that was an emu, for whom I felt a great fondness (from a respectful distance.)  Not so two other passing ladies who had stopped to admire him just moments before he pooped in really the most dramatic, abrupt way, leading to astonished cries of horror and disgust.  I cropped out as much as possible of the bison poop from those animals' glamour shot, but I can assure you there was a lot more that wasn't around their feet, so I'm not sure why those ladies were surprised by more animal poop.  It was a zoo after all.

Moving on, a particular breed of sheep the name of which I don't recall now, but - sheep! You gotta have the sheep:

It's Thursday already, of the week I was supposed to recharge my batteries after four months of packing and moving with mum.  I'm still stuck on my baby sweater and almost out of yarn for my mystery shawl and getting alarmingly past the point of travel knitting with the sock sweater and I've hardly sat down at all because of all the cleaning and purging (in particular of my closet after reading that Sel and Poivre had done that yesterday in spite of other clearly more pressing concerns.)  I think I deserve some sittin' time today, don't you?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The evil plan and how it's going

Ah, Wednesday - the day when I traditionally take stock of the week and adjust my pace (usually by speeding it up) through the Must Do list.  Since this particular week is about tidying and regrouping, I thought I'd revisit the life plan as it pertains to knitting.

See, I'm a writer really.  This knitting thing was supposed to be wht I do in my downtime.  Then it got kinda all-consuming (bet that never happens to you) and I had to accept that For The Moment, knitting was going to be my creative outlet. The fact that I was consumed by designing my own things made the job easier because designing is an unbeLIEVable time hog, if you're going to share said designs with other knitters. 

But recently I noticed just how much time designing takes.  And incidentally that compared to pretty much all of the professional designers out there I am a writer who knits in her downtime. 

So I came up with the evil plan: Knit other people's designs for a while.  Relax already.  Just enjoy the fiber and the opportunity to learn some new stuff.

How the evil plan is going:   h'mmm.  Let's take a look at the works in progress.

Sock Sweater: my own design, complete with charts. But I haven't done the math for multiple sizes or anything, which means I get a biscuit, right?

Baby Sweater: supposedly a vintage Beehive design, but it's morphing owing to the yardage issue.  Let's not think about that.

Mariner Sweater: an actual published pattern (that I'm knitting with insufficient yardage such that I have to rework the math on the sleeves, minimum, and probably adjust the back hem design as well.)

Mystery KAL shawl: somebody else's design which I am following.  Slavishly.  Whew.  Now if only I wasn't plotting out a new shawl design of my own as I knit it.

Handspun Scarf: totally improvised, but at least I'm not writing down how.

The Stripey: totally my own design, but when it's done I'll be sharing it here so maybe I can forgive myself for that one.

Mawata Mitts: technically following a pattern, but with fiber I am drafting out to the wrong gauge such that I will end up having to figure out a whole lotta math (which is probably why all I have on those so far is cuffs.)


(I think I'll work on the KAL shawl today.  It's about 600 stitches wide now and, being lace, not mindless, but it's the closest thing there is to sticking to the plan.)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Shawls on the fence

I'm still plugging away at my lump o' mystery KAL shawl:

Meet my 24" circular lace needle, courtesy of Addi and whichever LYS I acquired it from (When it comes to Addi, I seem to be spreading the love around.)

It's holding all the current stitches and appears to be able to hold a lot more of them yet, making this size a keeper because it will also do a sweater body and flat knitting.  To think I was annoyed when I realized I already had this exact size when I got a second with a non-lace tip!  The lace tip is great here, but in superfast stockinette my fingers appreciate the non-jabbiness of the regular tip.

And now back to the mystery lace shawl.  It's not so much lace really (till now) but warm garter and deeply furrowed ribbing, making it look quite small still which seems to be worrying some of the other knitters in this KAL, not least because now that it's so big it's eating up a ton of yarn every row such that one must look for contrasting border yarn in self-defence. 

I'm not worrying about that, partly because I already lined up a good contrast.  Admittedly, I haven't started the last bit of the current clue myself because there seems to be a slight hitch in the current wording of what I have to do next, and I was too exhausted the last few days to pick my way around that; today, the shawl is on the top of the knitting pile.

But a small shawl is okay with me if it turns out that way - which I doubt because you can block the dickens out of a shawl and lace always grows in the water even if there's just a little of it, proportionally - because small shawl = scarf and I never know how to wear a shawl without looking dweeby.  We've been discussing this over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies and someone helpfully posted a link to this video which gives very good suggestions on that front. 

Watch the video at your own risk.  It's making me think about making a really big shawl and I hate to think what it might do to you.

Yesterday it occurred to me that I could slip the shawl onto a needle of any size just to take a picture, so I got most of it onto a 47-incher and left the the rest where it was.  It still bunched.

Here is a closeup:

And here is the whole thing.  Don't the needles look like long spindly witch hands in plotting-something mode?

After I got the stitches back where they belong I noticed the needle I'd just used is a lace tip in a 3mm size.  Which would be perfect for the really big shawl I'm not thinking about at all.

(I knew those witch hands were up to no good.)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A new design: the Camp Smock

Last summer I went crazypants trying to find the solution to a challenging wardrobe problem posed by

a/ endless day trips in the car and short overnight holidays and

b/ no longer having the jackrabbit metabolism that got me through all those last minute 'Gah! no wait, there's ice cream!' breakfast moments of my late-for-work youth.

Seriously: if you are going to be sitting in a car for hours on a hot day, then getting out to picnic on the ground or a very old municipal table, all you really care about are easy knits, like a T-shirt and a pair of leggings or cropped yoga pants.  Cheap stuff you can wash fast or replace altogether when disaster invariably strikes.  But if that same trip features a tour of an art gallery or nice museum, what then?

Well, how about this?

That's a bodice.  To see the rest, check out the gorgeous photography over at the preview page for Interweave Knits Summer 2011, and scroll down to 'Summer Twine' to click on Camp Smock.

I did get one other picture of my own though,

of a pleat at the hem that draws attention away from whatever is going on in the middle of you.

Where I got the idea

From watching countless little girls playing in pinafores over leggings and Tshirts.  How come they got all the fun?  Lots of shopping time led me to a ton of grownup-sized tunics and smocks and filmy dresses, but most of them were either so high under the arms I had to wash them daily (a real pain on a trip you have to pack for) or so snug through my midsection I had to acknowledge - along with the rest of the people around me - that years of ice cream for breakfast is incompatible with a flat stomach.  Also, that it is physically possible for a flat stomach to trade places with a curve formerly located on the opposite side.  How, I still don't know, but apparently it is.

Just around the time I started making a composite in my mind of all the best features of all the tunics and dresses and wishing I had one for real, Interweave published a call for submissions. Thank goodness the entire acceptance-to-sample-shipping period fell into an eight-week lull between family health crises, is all I can say about that.

Adaptation potential

The straps are knit of a piece with the rest.  They make the smock a lot more elegant than my original idea for straps knit separately and sewn on, with the stitches running through purely decorative buttons, but the sewn-on option would allow you make quick easy adjustments to the position of the bodice.

The pleats at the back produce a little curve should you not have one of your own, but some lucky people who do may prefer not to call more attention to it.  In such a case, it's just a matter of deducting during cast-on the number of stitches used for the back pleat in your size (read ahead in the pattern to find out how many that is), and adjusting the stitch count between marker placement to accommodate the change.

The Smock is great for summer, but after the winter I've had and with another big home reorg/repair looming I've missed my window for getting a big project done by June.  Instead I'm going to knit one in wool and enjoy it through the fall and winter.  I like layers then, too!

There are a ton of gorgeous patterns in this issue so I'm excited to get my copy, which will be soon I hope - if you feel the same way, you'll be glad to know it hits the stands on May 17th.

Friday, May 6, 2011

On the bus with the sock sweater

Even though I've been pretty obsessed with other things, I'm still working away at the sock sweater.  At this point that translates to endless rounds of stocking stitch with occasional, invisible decreases all worked in brown, making it not so much of a candidate for thrilling photography.


after all the bus and car trips I've been on since the last time I wrote about it, I'm getting closer to interesting.

I'm employing my idea to do a lot of the lower body in one hand-dyed skein, then alternate with a second for a few thousand rounds so the join isn't terribly noticeable.  You can see there in the upper right corner I'm finally coming to the end of that first one, whew!

Of course, that means I'm also getting a lot closer to the top of this sweater, and more urgently that I'm carting around a lot of bulk, contrary to Travel Knitting Guidelines.  So I figured it was time to set up the second segment of travel knitting.

Just a couple more rounds and I'll be done with the patterning on this first sleeve.  After that, it might as well be the leg of a sock - totally travel-with-able.

Hope you have a marvelous weekend with knitting in it, portable or otherwise!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

I twined a little mitten

When the class schedule was published for this year's Knitter's Frolic, the one session I could not not think about was on Twined Knitting.  Trouble is I've been booked solid since mid-March helping my mum with her move - to say nothing of the fact that an awful lot of we Canadians spend the last day of April doing taxes - and I didn't know whether I'd be in a position to set aside an entire Sunday to learn how to twine.

Hand number one: Youtube or not I knew I'd never learn how to do this on my own, I live in a cold place where anything that promises a warm mitt is highly alluring, and the class would enforce 7 hours of sitting down instead of moving boxes and shifting books.

Hand number two: hello, reality?  No Time!

So I didn't register in advance.  But when I went to the Frolic on Saturday and asked at the registration desk to please be told there were no places left, there was one! so I decided to go for it.  And now I have a mini mitten of my very own.

It was a great class, taught by Mairi McKissock who is one of those knitters who will make things just to experiment with new techniques.  The samples she brought in to show us!  Whoa.

This particular technique is super easy once you know how.  Getting to 'how' took a while though.  I think we spent half an hour learning (and then practicing until our brains could do it on autopilot) how to cast on the stitches, and another half an hour learning and practicing how to do the actual twisting.

You know, even the direction you should twist has to be thought out, based on the direction the yarn has been plied and how loosely it's been spun.  I love this.

Also love:

Finally knowing how to get this awesome braid effect (if not how to photograph it clearly).  So much simpler than I thought!


how pretty the inside of a twined mitt looks.

Okay, so what am I going to do with all this new knowledge - assuming I get time before I forget it all?

This is the original Homespun Handknit from Interweave, and these very simple-looking mitts were designed by Carol Rhoades.  I loved this book so much when I found it in the library a year or two ago I had to hunt up a second-hand copy (it's long out of print) and while I still look at it a lot, it's this picture that always makes me stop and ponder the longest.

The grey mohair/romney blend there is all I could think of when I was working on the sample mitt, but after I took that picture I held it up to my winter coat and, um


so now I'm thinking about one of the other Stoddart yarns.  Specifically the one that weighs the most, because I have no idea how much yarn a fingering-weight twined mitt will eat.  (hint: it's the one with the bunny beside it.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Good news for purple baby sweaters

Since it rained the last three days such that I couldn't get photos of what I really-most-especially want to show you, I thought I'd mention that just before I left the Frolic on Saturday I solved the yarn shortage problem for the Purple Baby Sweater.

Look, a new friend!

This supplement yarn is of pretty much the same fiber composition but dyed by The Black Lamb.  It doesn't scream at the purple so should play nicely in stripes, it's still pretty gender-neutral, and it's called Maple Sugar, which I think is a good name for a Canadian baby don't you?

I took this picture on Sunday (during a brief break from rain) but it's still in the skein today.  Winding it into a ball would involve

a/ clearing space for the swift and winder

b/ accepting that I will now be ripping out the purple baby sweater sleeve for the third time

and I am not emotionally prepared for either of those things yet. 

Besides, I have a mystery shawl to knit (progressing nicely, with many errors by me all of which I have been able to correct on the following row without any frogging so far, knock wood.) 

Oh, and colour considerations for the Deco project.  Can I get away with camel over a predominantly black and grey wardrobe do you think?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Decisions: just not my strong point

I am in love with a cardigan and its name is Deco, by Kate Davies.  Over at Knitting and Tea and Cookies we're talking about a fall cardi knitalong - whatever pattern you like, with moral support for the journey - and this is going to be my project (even though I am also seriously tempted by Manu).

Problem: hello, yarn? Because a stash full of sock stuff and one-off hand-dyed gorgeousness does not a slip stitched cardigan make.

Solution: a whole lot of Ravelry research.  Two nights before the Frolic, I hunted for a yarn that does not feature superwash wool or acrylic or nylon, is dyed uniformly enough not to require any alternating of skeins, and gets magnificent user reviews.  In the time I had I found just two: Quince & Co., which I would have to order online, and St-Denis - which I could buy at the Frolic.

You know where this is going, right?  I got to the St-Denis booth and there was just one choice in ball form that yielded enough yardage for the cardi - a bright orangey red.  But there were also a lot of yardage-rich cones Veronik was getting rid of at astonishingly low prices, and thanks to some serious enabling by Robin Melanson who kept finding more that would do very nicely indeed, I came home with four colours:


Which to choose?

I have to make yardage the decision point.  I need 1100 for my sweater and the cones range from 1254 yards to 2058, which is enough to make a much larger sweater.  The two smallest cones are these, at 1254 yards and 1266.

The stitch pattern would show up better in the light grey, don't you think? though the green would probably be better for me.  Or I could go up to Camel, at 1326 yards, and maybe use the leftovers to trim a little hat to match?

Oh dear, what to do.

Answer: erm, keep working on the mystery shawl so there's at least one thing off the needles before starting something new?

Monday, May 2, 2011

Springtime in yarny spaces

Two words: Knitter's Frolic.  At last!  The marketplace portion of the weekend was on Saturday, and I had a wonderful time spending money, the more so because this year's Frolic was the carrot that got me through the last four months.

There were several things I particularly wanted to buy there, but up at the top of the list - for both priority and the order in which I compiled said list - was more hand dyed mohair/romney blend yarn from Stoddart Family Farms, which you may remember from such finished objects as Sailor's Delight, Ady's Socks, and my lighter weight Watercolour Socks.

I could have ordered some online or I could have dropped in to the farmer's market in town one weekend (which was desperately tempting), but I decided to be strong and wait till the Frolic to stock up with more of this amazingly soft, warm, hardwearing yarn.

Glamour shots:

and a little skein of grey for a pair of textured socks.

The only hitch is that yesterday I took a class to learn a technique I've been trying to figure out for the last year, and now I wish I had two skeins of grey so I can make use of it, but I'll tell you more about that another day. By which time I may or may not have acquired a second skein of grey, ahem.