Tuesday, January 31, 2012

How to knit more in less time

I know it's the last day of January and therefore a bit late to offer a scheme for all year, but ever since I realized I'd finished a project for every week of 2011 I've been keeping an eye on how my 2012 finished objects are piling up. Current score: 8 in 4 weeks.  And they weren't all headbands either.

I think I'm cranking them out because I've worked out three steps to help me stay on top of the knits I really want to have done so I can use them myself or have them ready to give away.  And they are:


Take a look at what you've knit in the last year or two - not just worked on, but actually finished, and enjoyed making to boot.  Do you really only care about shawls?  Live for socks or sweaters?  Never get tired of making hats?  (ahem)  Do you knit for yourself, or others - and if it's others, what kind of things?  Are they things honouring hard dates like birthdays or Christmas, or are they just random acts of knitting?

Now take a look at your stash.  What's in there that you'd like to use?  What do you feel you should use? What do you think somebody you'd knit for would love?

And finally: list out some projects you want to make this year, based on your results.  If you keep a queue at Ravelry you're halfway there, but I know a lot of us use binders of patterns we've picked up too.


Your job here is to match up patterns, yarn, and - realistically, what you actually want to knit.  Unless you are motivated by the desire to finish projects you hate, don't put a yucky-coloured, least-loved-fiber sweater you promised a 'friend' you don't even like that much up at the top of your list.  Your goal here is to work out combinations that will have you saying

YES.  I want to work on this this NOW.

Because your goal is to be knitting joyfully.  (It's faster.)

Now take a closer look at your combinations.  A 'quick knit' isn't necessarily made with bulky yarn, but it's definitely not going to get ripped out a lot.

You know what I'm talking about - those fancy lace shawls that need lifelines and constant counting, or complicated cable patterns where the left has to be folded over the right and then under that snakey bit over there and if you mess it up the whole thing looks awful and you have to rip out a few inches or cry yourself dry.  Which frankly you will anyway because hello, you ripped out a few inches representing hours of work.  You can have that sort of thing in your mix of course, but you don't want ten of them.

Timing is going to be important here too.  Probably not going to wear that wool cardi till fall?  Good - start knitting it now.  Heavy wool socks there's still a few weeks of cold left for?  If you can pull them off in a week, go for it.  Your goal here is to finish stuff either just when you need it or well ahead of the game, so you feel a rush of success that will motivate you to finish even more stuff.

Oh, and either keep it small and simple or mix it up.  Seriously - you can knit mindless socks on the sofa just as easily as you can the complicated cable sweater, but past a certain point you cannot take the sweater on the bus and get near as much of it done, percentage-wise.  Even if it means working a bit on four different things a day, you should have something you can pick up and get going on in moments, anywhere you are.

Think of it this way: if you are knitting while waiting on something else, you're doubling your time.  But if you're just standing there, you're losing it altogether.


This is my favourite bit, the one I took care of last weekend and of which I have been reaping the benefits ever since.  For as many as your projects as you can, put the needles in bags with the yarn and the pattern and CAST ON. You heard me.  Actually start those things so they're ready when you are.

My own approach factors in the coffee table with built-in cubbies beside my knitting chair, the little plastic tubs that fit perfectly inside them, and my endless supply of Tiny Happy small project bags that are so perfect for my many small projects.  Maybe something like it will work for you too.

That's four projects I've lined up there, not counting the Crazy Cowls, which were living in a different cubby till I finished them (it was too cold yesterday to take pictures of them on, sorry.)  I think they are two pairs of socks, a cowl, and a hat, but I might be wrong about hat. 

The bag that lives in front is for my tools, so I always have them handy.  I've got pens and pencils and extra scissors in the plastic tub, too - no wandering off and picking through stacks of supplies when I need to make a note or fix a problem.

Melissa sews little Tiny Happy tags into the side seam of her bags and they are perfect for holding safety pins.   I like to use those when I'm making socks, so I can remember where I started the heel flap or the foot.  Makes counting much easier, and that makes matching the pair much easier, and that means No Ripping Out (see above.)  With the pins right outside the bag were I can see them, I don't have to worry about them falling out of the bag - and also, if I see there are only one or two left, I know I'm close to finishing the pair.  Practical and motivational.

Obviously you will not be able to line up a year's worth of projects all assembled and ready to go - unless you have way more needles and other tools than I do - but you can get a few ahead and then periodically take some downtime to reload your project tub.  

Because believe me, there is nothing more delicious than having little parcels of exciting knits just waiting for you to open them up and get going!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Crazy for the colour

I've been trying to clear out my unfinished projects since the new year started (please, don't look at the giant sweater parts behind this curtain) and was pleased to finish at last another Crazy Cowl:

Doesn't it look lovely and mostly consistent, close to being all one width in spite of being knit with handspun and therefore wildly erratic in yarn size from one yard to the next?

Well, except for that bit at the end. 

It's half as wide again, and also denser.  But I'm pretty sure the cowl will still work well as a fashionable and functional accessory - certainly it's warm enough in spite of those great huge holes all over it.  Funny, isn't it, that giant holes are able to hold in heat?  Though not, probably, in a windstorm.

I think I patted myself on the back for 12 seconds after finishing this one, before casting on the next:

This is, like its comrade up there, some roving from Twisted Fiber Art, the club colourway 'Opulent' from November which I had requested to be dyed in evolving colours rather than stripes.  First time I've done that and I'm quite pleased with how it's come out. 

(also, thrilled to see the cowl being about the same width all the way along so far.  could it be that my handspinning skills are finally good enough to produce predictable sizes and weights of yarn?)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Hot Stuff - a hat pattern for sale

PLEASE NOTE:  this pattern is now free :^)

For the last year or so, Helena at Midnight Sheep and I have been cooking up what has become my go-to hat for cold days:

Yes, alongside the cute slipped-stitch stripes that hide each round's colour changes and give you a little lift over one eyebrow, those are mugs.  With text.  Three of the mugs are steaming, and the steam separates three magical cold-weather words:

Hot Chocolate



(I usually wear mine with the word 'tea' out front, though I do love a good cup of hot chocolate as well.)

On top?  A warm, radiating sun.  Or melting marshmallow, or gooey dollop of whipped cream, depending on your perspective.

Whichever you like, this hat is all about the warm, and I can tell you it really is.  Stranded DK weight Bluefaced Leicester?  So warm.

And so fast to knit.  I lost count of how many I made while I tested, but here's a clue: I stopped needing the charts.  Never got bored of them, either.  That's the thing about stranded knitting - it's so exciting to watch the next layer build up the image.

Obviously, this is a stranded hat and stranded knits are perfect for using up the remains of other projects you already have around the house.

But think about treating yourself to a kit in Huggable DK, the yarn Helena gave me to use.  The Bluefaced Leicester is a dream to work with - so springy and cuddly and soft - and the colour combinations Helena came up are so cheery.  While I worked out the pattern I knit it up in other yarns and the results were cute, but there is just no comparison to the way the Huggable DK ones feel either in progress or when wearing them later.  (Yeah... that's plural.  I kept two for personal use, I love this hat so much.)

In fact I am so convinced that you need to have this hat in Huggable form, I've asked Helena to include the pattern for free with her kits.  You can buy just the pattern from me and use up stuff you already have if you prefer, but - Huggable, people.  How do you resist that?  (said the woman with three more kits waiting to be knit up.)

Hot Stuff
A charted pattern in three sizes, with some instruction for stranded knitting.

Difficulty Level:

Midnight Sheep 'Huggable DK', (100% Bluefaced Leicester, 245 yards/100g): A - 44 (51, 58) yds, B - 75 (87, 99) yds, C - 15 (15, 17) yds
3.5mm (US 4) - 1 set of 5 double pointed needles, or size to obtain gauge
Stitch marker
Darning needle

23 sts, 28 rows = 4” in stocking st 
(Please check gauge! If you do not knit with loose tension, you'll need to go up a needle size or two.)

Instructions are given for sizes Small, Medium, and Large.  All are designed to be long enough to cover your ears; in the very elastic 'Huggable DK', Medium stretches to fit a 22” head, with a little room to spare. 
S: 16.75" around, 7.5" long
M: 18" around, 7.5" long
L: 19.25" around. 7.75" long

Download the .pdf of Hot Stuff

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Motivational yarn

Sometimes I worry I don't share enough photographs of yarn here at Hugs.  (not.)

Well, after all - it's what motivates us, isn't it?  That or the finished product or really great needles or a person you want something special for.  But for me, mostly the yarn, since there's so much time spent touching it.

So just in case you needed to see some handspun in cakes today:

Man, the first and last of these really are painfully similar colours aren't they.

You've seen all these Christmas spins before in freshly-wound and I think skeined form too, but this is the final product - the stuff I can knit with just as soon as I clear out the last of my other obligations.  It was such a relief on the weekend when I was finally able to get them off their hangers and into these cakes.

I'm giving this one pride of place:

This is Twisted Fiber Art club roving I ordered in an evolution of colour rather than self-striping.  It was unlikely I'd be able to ply it such that it would in fact evolve from one shade to the next, but lookit!  It worked!

What I'm going to do with it all: who knows?  Except for the last one.  The last one is getting knit up into a Crazy Cowl and will be the showpiece for the free pattern which I hope to release in the next couple of weeks after totally blowing it about having it out in time for Christmas knitting.

I mean, you guys need a Valentine's present, right?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

We interrupt our regular procrastinating

Yesterday I took a break from yarn-purchase-planning and pattern-polishing and sock knitting to finish a SuperSecret ScarfyThing I started back in November. Yay!  and of course I can't show you the pictures (clue: 'supersecret'.)  Instead I will show you something I finished earlier:

It's the manhat we discussed last week.  Pete declined to model it for pictures but did agree to try it on and further agreed he did not look like an idjit in it.  I then asked him if he wanted to keep it and he said, "I already have a hat."

????  Does not compute.

Anyway I'm pleased with how it came out and pleased too that I seem to have worked Turn A Square out of my system after five (FIVE??) editions.  I may do more stripey hats in another pattern later though because I found so many great colour combinations in my stash while making this lot.

I really, really love how two-row striping looks in a rustic yarn.  (I shouldn't say that out loud though.  I might have to cast on another and I think you've all been longsuffering enough.)

Meanwhile: I need to procrastinate on things other than the pattern-polishing project.  Helena and I have been cooking something up for at least a year, and it's so close to being ready to release you might even see it this week.  Which you might care about because huzzah, it's not a stripey hat!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

I am so doomed

Three exciting but bad-for-stash-reduction things that happened yesterday:

I found out that I wasn't too late for the Stoddart Family Farm Wool Share (which will net me 4 skeins of the best winter sock yarn I know)

Twisted announced that all six colourways from the Twisted Fiber Art club are now available to club members for a week or two (like I'm not gonna get in on that.  I know I haven't shown the colours here yet because I didn't want to spoil them for anybody, but WHOA.)

I marked the dates for the Knitter's Frolic on my calendar.

man, I have some serious knitting to do to make room for new yarn.  wish me luck...

Monday, January 23, 2012

I can't believe I knit the whole thing

I thought it was kinda crazy to think I could knit a pair of socks in a week, especially after not working on them for three days of said week, but look:

There was that one time I knit a whole sock in a day, but I used heavier weight yarn for it, and I had more time.  I wasn't even sure I had cast on the right number of stitches for these ones.

I guess I did because they fit great.  And they're long enough, for a change... I keep panicking that I won't have enough yarn and make them too short, but this time I figured I'd just do a contrasting toe if I had to, and ended up with about 7 grams of yarn left over for the toe of a less fortunate pair in the future.

Speaking of the yarn: it's a Romney/Mohair blend from Stoddart Family Farms, which may or may not still be available online.  However, the farm usually has a booth at yarn events in Southern Ontario such as the Knitter's Frolic, so if you see them I can highly - and I mean highly - recommend all their woolly products (I've even tried the roving, which is heaven to spin.)  I have not found warmer sock yarn, and the socks wear beautifully, as well as looking gorgeous, even inside out.

I have two more skeins of this yarn to knit up and I'm making them a priority because it's just so cold out now.  There is really so much to be said for knitting out of season, so stuff is ready when you need it!  There is also a lot to say for buying up a lot more of your favourite winter yarns, which I thought I did at the last Knitter's Frolic and obviously didn't.  Not so much as to have bonus yarn for mittens, anyway - and can you imagine how awesome those would look?

Have a lovely warm Monday, folks!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Crazy cowl, continued

I'm making a determined effort now with a pair of socks, but earlier in the week I digressed with my current Crazy Cowl.  This is a pattern I've been working out for handspun yarn - even the learner kind that goes from superchunky to thread in alarmingly short order.  Well, maybe not that huge an extreme, so maybe not true learner handspun, but close.

I say 'maybe' because this particular test run appears to be using thread-to-papertowelroll yarn:

(isn't it interesting how much longer the stripes get when the yarn gets thinner? like jagged mountains and gently sloping valleys. you can so tell I was learning how to spin all over again, this time with a wheel instead of a spindle.)

Based on my recollections on how the first one went though, I think the cowl could be okay in spite of the sudden shift in diameter.

How the first one went

In case I didn't mention it, the first one went to my neighbour Monique.  Monique had been keeping up with me about how Les was doing when he was so ill last year - do you know (no you don't because I never mentioned it at the time), he went into the hospital this week a year ago? - and six months later, the morning he died, I sent her an e-mail to let her know because there was not much else I could be doing at 6am.

Well, around 10 Monique showed up at the door with cookies from my favourite bakery and a quiche so I wouldn't have to think about making lunch.

Around 2 she dropped by again with a fruit tray from her mom, and sat on the porch with me a while.

The next day, she invited me over for tea and just let me talk, and when the visitation finally began a few days later at the funeral home - more than an hour out of town incidentally - she showed up there too. 

This all happened during the Tour de Fleece so I had been spinning every morning in the sun on the porch, and had not long finished for the day when we found out Les was really going to go.  All the yarn from that time is full of all the feelings you can imagine, but that particular yarn, the one I knit up for Monique and was working on the day before Les died and afterward, is full of gratitude for her specifically.

Fortunately it was also spun a little further along in the Tour than the one shown above, and so it was a good deal more consistent.  It even looks sort of normal.

In fact as it turns out it looks really cool, in any of the approximately 14 ways she figured out to wear it within the first five minutes of my giving it to her.  It's so versatile, I am being optimistic and thinking the pattern's going to be all right for any handspun even if the end result takes on bizarre shaping like the current one.

The plan

I'll be releasing the Crazy Cowl as a free pattern as soon as I
a/ have photography and
b/decide what gauge and needle size to suggest as a standard.

The latter is tricky since: hello, handspun!  It varies so much.  But all that handspinning I did over Christmas and blocked over New Year's is dry and ready to wind into cakes and knit up, and it's all way, way more consistent than this.  More even than Monique's was.  So with luck... end of the month.  Stay tuned.

And have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Doing things I shouldn't

Of course as a chronic procrastinator I'm always doing things I shouldn't and/or not doing things I should (such a difference!) but this week, more so.  And thanks to an apparent - and hopefully brief - personal energy shortage the Not doing things has outweighed any benefit of the Doing things, so the Shouldn't part is getting me into some trouble.

Stuff I shouldn't do but did

Letting myself run out, months ago, of 2.25mm needles, my standard for socks

Not immediately buying more 2.25mm needles even if it does mean a small fortune in shipping to get the wooden kind I like from KnitPicks

Not giving in to my love of square needle double-pointed sets - they are a little scary sharp for subway knitting and a bit up in the air for matching gauge to that of similarly sized round needles, but excellent in every other way - and just buying a 2.5mm set in it because I've turned out to be one of those people who needs to go up a size to compensate for the change in shape

Waiting till a few days before Christmas to suggest 2.5mm square dpns as a gift idea, at which point they were sold out locally

Losing a critical winter sock just as the temperatures dropped

Casting on replacements for the critical sock using 2.75mm square needles in desperation, and only 56 stitches' worth instead of the more comfy 64 on the assumption the increase in gauge would justify it without also meaning hopelessly loose fabric for a sock

Setting a mental goal (those are killers for me) of finishing the replacement pair in a week, then neglecting them for three days of it

Knitting this far on the first replacement before even bothering to make sure the gauge is okay:

... while thinking the whole time This Won't Work, I Should Rip This Out Now

Stuff I didn't expect to have the sense to do but did

Waiting to measure before ripping out

Turns out I got 7.5 stitches to an inch in the original socks, and I'm getting 7.25 stitches to an inch in these ones.  Even the 56 vs. 64 stitch issue seems to be working out.

I'm pretty comfortable with this.  I'm so glad I kept going.

Of course I still shouldn't be neglecting the two patterns I hoped to release this month, but you can't have everything!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The enigma that is ManHat

I have this crazy unrealistic goal in life I call 'making a hat Pete would wear'.  Sometimes I think he's picky, but usually I think I'm just not getting this whole ManHat thing right, because he really does look awful in everything I'm able to get him to try.  I've even bought him hats and they've been a total disaster. 

There are two exceptions, and they are a terrible red-orange acrylic toque he's had forever that is falling apart plus the crazy Jester hat I sewed him out of polar fleece one year when I had an assembly line and cranked those out for everybody on my list.  I even sewed bells on all the points - they were ridiculous/cute.  But also, worn.  In fact Bob sent me a picture a few weeks ago of him out on a walk on Christmas Eve, wearing the one I'd sent him.

So obviously there is a solution to the ManHat problem and I'm missing it.  I think I'm still missing it with the current Turn A Square effort:

I just don't care as much this time because I love so much how the grey and red work together.  The inside of this one is even more ohhhhhh than in the other colour combinations, if you ask me

(but I'm sure you're not, as you must be thoroughly sick of seeing this same hat pattern over and over again.)

I've made a possibly lucky mistake on this one: somehow, I added in 10 extra stitches to the body, and thanks to the joy of stocking stitch I had no reason to notice until I got to the decreases and the numbers didn't work.  Opting to consider the larger size a gift, I didn't rip back but simply reduced the 10, then worked a row and continued with the crown more or less as written, whistling casually all the way in case anybody was looking.

Why I think a larger hat might be an improvement:

In considering what makes those other two hats successful, I've noticed that they don't follow the shape of one's head - one even has a fold-up brim that adds bulk around the forehead and adjusts the scale nicely.  Maybe a hat that hugs too tight and makes your head look tiny only works when you've got longer hair that shows a bit, for balance.

The other quality I've noticed about the fabric of those hats is that they're worked at a very fine gauge.

I wonder if I shouldn't try knitting a stocking cap from sock yarn, long enough to fold up at the brim?

Or maybe it would be smarter to drag Pete out to a store and make him try on a ton of hats to see what works for sure before I knit anything else?

Or maybe just give up and knit more socks?

(gotta say - that last one sounds pretty good right now.  mmmmmm socks.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Five reasons to join Twitter

I tend to resist doing too much of the social media thing (said Mary, a longtime blogger and active Raveler - but hey, I quit Facebook!) because as technology speeds up I find I am more and more drawn to low-tech.  See: exhibit A, spinning wheel, exhibit B, spindle, and so on.

However, I did bow to pressure from Karen last month and set up an account.  And boy am I glad I did.

Five Reasons why Knitters should Twitter

1. You'll find out about deals.

I already knew about Soak - there's a bottle front and centre on my laundry shelf and if its contents get low I start to get shaky - and I even knew about what a nice gift it makes when paired with something handknit, but it never occurred to me that it would make a good Christmas present.  Until Jacqueline tweeted a free shipping offer.  At which point it occurred to me very strongly, such that I bought a ton of Soak things to give away.  Yay!

Plus, if I hadn't done that, I wouldn't have found the one yarny present I myself received (by ordering it and then giving it to somebody else to wrap - somebody who also thought Zombie Barbeque was a perfect colour name: thank you, Lorna's Laces.)

p.s.: Heel is awesome foot cream, and the cucumber scent smells like Bermuda.  Which is a good thing in case you're not sure what I mean by that.

2. You'll know when your favourite yarns are in stock.

I had to stop renewing my membership in the Knitterly Things Vesper Sock Club because I had (and still have) an insane amount of that exact sock base in my stash.  I promised myself I wouldn't go back till I knit up the current stash, which is problematic because I am not also stopping myself from buying non-club skeins from the online shop.  In fact if it wasn't that Julia's stock sells out entirely within hours of being posted, aka Before I Can Get There, I would be in Big Trouble.

Still, it's tricky to buy the scant remaining Vesper even with the aid of e-mail notices that the shop has been stocked.  So I was thrilled recently to read a tweet from Julia to say she was about to stock the shop.   How awesome is that?  All I had to do was stalk the site and not even that very much, and I was able to score a skein of Rawhide.

We can discuss later whether I should be knitting this for a guy or not, bearing in mind that I wear a lot of black and really want this for myself.

(p.s., Twisted Fiber Art announces new colourways on Twitter before e-mail too.  Q: how much do I love Shenanigans?  A: a LOT.  and there is no question of knitting it for a guy - or anyway, not my guy friends - so, Guilt Free.)

3. You'll get recipe ideas.

Stephanie Pearl-McPhee tweeted the other day that she had just made cauliflower soup by roasting the florets with garlic cloves in olive oil, salt, and pepper, than pureeing half of it and throwing the lot into stock...

... and I will be buying an immersion blender this week.  I can't stop thinking about this soup.

(It occurred to me this morning that I would really enjoy having Stephanie Pearl-McPhee for a friend except that everybody I know who reads her blog including me gets into trouble because everything she talks about is something you feel  immediately you must try also, and the next thing you know you're spending yarn money on an immersion blender.  You know what I mean?  I would need some sort of protective shield from the inspiration.)

4. You find out about cool craft techniques.

I can't even remember now who tweeted what about which site, but I do know that somebody's comment this week led me through a maze of links to discover a tutorial for an amazing couching tip.  Seriously, I have hunted everywhere and can't find the link that was so eye-opening, but I can tell you the basics which are:

- write or trace or photocopy onto paper the letter you want to couch and cut away the excess, then pin it to what you want to embroider;

- swirl your yarn over the letter, then use couching stitch to fasten the key point in each curve;

- carefully tear away the paper;

- couch the rest of the letter.

And now I want to embroider some knitting... maybe the hat I'm working on, when it's finally done?

5. You will discover great websites.

People tweet all kinds of links they like, and I check them all out because you never know what you're going to find.  Now I have to ask myself: how did I get by without the crafty goodness of Whipup, Craft Passion, or How About Orange

I foresee a very productive year, even taking into account the loss of time I am now spending on reading my Twitter Feed.  (which isn't much, frankly.  there's so much gold in there it doesn't take long to mine enough to keep me happy.)

And that's five.  Got any other good reasons?

(oh, and if you go and you're looking for me, the handle I ended up with was @marykeenanknits.  apparently there are other Mary Keenans.  a lot of us in fact, and some of them got around to Twitter first.)

Monday, January 16, 2012

His and hers hats

It was such a splendid idea: matching hats for a him and a her, neighbours who have been especially good to me.  I fiddled with the stitch count for Jared Flood's Turn A Square pattern, a crazy simple pattern that produces a sensible cap that even a hat-resistant man would wear, and combinations of my much-adored DK-weight Jacob/alpaca blend from Toots Leblanc, plus scraps of my red cashmere-blend Precieux from Biscotte et Cie.

I just don't seem to be able to get tired of the stripes you get with the slightly rustic Toots Leblanc yarn - especially when paired with the luxurious Precieux...

Even the insides are a bit melt-making, I think.

It took a really long time for me to get these wrapped because I kept taking pictures.  I've knit four of these things now and it's not getting any easier to send them out the door!  In the end I opted for a simple bow and put them into a brown paper lunch bag to take down the street.

The hats took about two days each, plus a day for drying, so: not a huge time investment, and SO nice to knit, I didn't even long too much to get working on the Replacement Socks (more on those tomorrow.)

But... oh, I have to face up to it.  I don't think the His will ever see daylight on His head!  No matter how warm and soft the fabric or how cold and bitter the day - some guys either can't pull off a hat or think they can't, and no amount of knitting will change the fact.

Still glad I made the hats though.  And... I might be making another one now.  ahem.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The power of stripes

As I sit here wondering how my day is going to play out ...

(will the stripey his and hers hats fit Him and Her? will guilt overcome my aversion to cold and snowstorminess and send me out to buy urgently-needed laundry soap and milk? can I keep my hands off the next-size-up stripey hat I got the ribbing nearly done on yesterday... or will I spend my wildcard time gazing in fear and wonder at the new Bernina sewing machine that came through the door last night????)

(it's probably a No on the grocery run, by the way.  and I suspect better people than I would say the same.)

... I am very conscious of the power of the stripes.  I mean, if I can even debate knitting a hat pattern I've already done four times just so I can see how two colours look together in rows, versus trying out all the cool features of a real live contemporary sewing machine, stripes have to be pretty compelling.

So I think it's a good day to show you the stuff I made with the last of my self-striping/semisolid combo from Twisted Fiber Art.

Here are the socks with feet in them, and I must say they look a lot better that way then just flat and accordian'ed up on a table.

They feel pretty awesome too.

I think I mentioned that when I was finished these, plus the slippers I made from the semisolid, I had enough left over for a Calorimetry (ha! looked it up this time so I'd get the spelling right.)

I do love this effect.  I started with the striping yarn, weighing as I went because there seemed to be so little left, and stopped at the meeting point of Not Quite Halfway and In The Middle Of The Most Contrasting Stripe.

Then I went to the semisolid, counting out carefully so I'd know when to switch back.  Except that this pattern is so neatly designed, I ended up just knitting till I came back to where the stripey yarn was waiting for me - thank goodness I'd been too lazy to cut a tail when I switched colours. 

Sock Pattern Info: made up - standardish sock, improvised ribbing.

Yarn Info: Twisted Fiber Art Yummy - wool/cashmere/nylon in a light worsted weight, in club colours Nymph (stripey) and Olive (coordinating semisolid) that may or may not come available in the future (I'll mention it here if they do!)

Remainders Info: yes.  I still have some of this yarn left, enough to stripe a hat. H'mmmmm.

I hope you all have a delightful weekend, and I hope that I have more knitting to show you on Monday.  You might have to settle for sewing, heh.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A rush project

One of the things (well, two of the things if you're inclined to be picky) I really wanted to do for Christmas and ran out of time for was: knitting little gifts for a couple who have been super kind to me this year.  They're always kind, but this year: exceptionally so.

Seeing as how 'She' asked about my Turn A Square hat, and 'He' is a guy who might actually wear a hat if the weather was cold enough, I thought a complementary pair of hats would be a good January present.  As I type this it's raining outside, but you never know, we might get snow this winter.

This is what I'm working with, and I'm kind of wishing I had done a grey/red combo for him instead of brown/grey because I only just noticed his coat is black.  I kinda think the bigger hurdle is whether the wool content of this yarn will be scratchy - though it's half alpaca and after it's been Soaked it's pretty amazing, everybody has their tolerance level - but I'm always preoccupied with the matchy factor. 

Her coat is dark brown, and I think either of these hats would work for her.  Also: I finished His last night and it felt a bit snug on me, pre-blocking.  I hoped to gift them tomorrow evening if they're dry in time, but maybe I should aim for Sunday, and hope there's enough red (cashmere blend!) left over for one last try with a more relaxed tension?  Assuming such a thing is possible, because my tension is crazy loose as it is.

Or maybe grey/red would be too girly.  Thoughts?  I will take silence as "Mary, you're crazy.  Hand over the hats and get going on backup stocks for the half-pair on your desk."

(speaking of which, I cast on for those last night and this morning tried on the still-present sock to make sure I'd cast on the right number of stitches. It is SO perfect and SO soft and JUST the right length everywhere.  But I am not crying because I still have faith the missing one will return through whatever black hole it departed.  I mean, things don't really go splody when they get sucked through those things, do they?)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Woebegone Wednesday

Okay, I'm not entirely a sad girl today but I do have a Missing Sock update and that is,

it's still missing.

Even though I have checked, in addition to less likely places, every inch of the bed - bedding, pillows, and frame - on which it was last seen, and gone through the entire closet into which it might have been inadvertently dumped. 

(Actually I took everything out of that closet and went through it all, Thing by Thing, and managed to offload a ton of it before vacuuming all the shelves and returning the much-pruned remains to their place.  So I can guarantee that sock did not make its way into the closet either.)

I really think it must be on a road trip by now, or calling quietly for its mate from the depths of.... could it be under the carpet I wonder?  Surely I'd notice.

Also, while we're talking about sad things: yesterday I wound all that new yarn into balls and my sore arm got more sore from cranking of the winder thingy.  So add ball-winding to spinning on the list of things I need to not do till I'm better. 

(Frankly I don't think this is possible.  I will have to aim for moderation.)

In good news: I do have four sets of the same yarn I used for the missing sock, and as I discovered late last night the 2.75mm square needles that just came available from my needle stash seem to produce a pretty good fabric with it.  So as soon as I finish off some hats I need to do this week - more on that tomorrow if the light is good enough for pictures today - I can get going on backup pairs.

I'm not giving up on that sock though.  It's gotta be around somewhere, right?

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

A little trip to Stitch

Over the holiday I wrangled a trip to Stitch, my favourite yarn shop - coincidentally located in Jordan Village, one of my favourite places in the Niagara Region.

(Fair warning: Stitch is located in a cute little house a few doors up and across the street from The Fibre Garden, for which I could not wrangle any extra time this visit.  Fortunately they have a good online shop, but if you knit or spin or quilt or some combination thereof I can't think of a better place for a relaxing weekend away than Jordan, with its breathtaking views over the Escarpment and its adorable bed and breakfasts and yummy restaurants and so on.)

The main reason I like to go to Stitch is because I get to see Jocelyn, who has such a gift for making a welcoming, inspiring space.  Even though I only ever get 30 minutes tops in there, I come away feeling like I've had a holiday.  But also, Jocelyn stocks some pretty fantastic stuff - and she has a good-sized room set aside for fabrics to boot.

Here is a recap of what I picked up in less than half an hour.

Mary Goes Shopping

Jocelyn is the one who tipped me off about the fingerless gloves I made so many pairs of for Christmas, and the yarn she suggested for my original pair proved to be so useful for various presents during the Christmas KnitFrenzy I thought I should have more, but in this colourway that kinda leapt out at me.

That done, I had to pick up some French General fabrics.  I've been obsessing about them since the last visit, and decided not to waste time agonizing about which designs to choose.  I just went with my gut and picked these ones out of the wooden display box, while discussing with Jocelyn whether I have enough sewing years left in me to justify the investment a Bernina.  (Jocelyn was smart and bought one a long time ago, but she thought I could still do it, and a couple of days later I did.)

While we went on chatting and strolling I spotted some cubbies of Madelinetosh yarns.  I've been thinking about trying that for a while too and where better to buy some?  I thought for some reason that these two colours would look well together, but I love them both individually too so if they don't, I will still enjoy them.

Then I had to ask about buttons, of the giant variety for the crazy cowls I still have to post the pattern for.  Jocelyn helped me pick out these ones.

Finally, as she tallied up the bill, I spotted the Americo display, which has been the bane of my existence for a while.  I fell in love with Jocelyn's selection of Americo alpaca yarns on my first visit to the shop's previous location - long ropes of heavyweight goodness hanging in the front passageway - but couldn't afford them.  This time my eye fell on an inexpensive skein of 100% llama in a pretty green and I didn't think twice.

It wasn't till I got home and unpacked it all that I noticed something that may not be entirely evident from these pictures, or from the way they appear on your screen.  But after those first two skeins of yarn asked me to take them home? every other thing I chose matched a colour they have in them.

And now if you'll excuse me, I have to get out my ball winder and swift!

Monday, January 9, 2012

A holiday in spinsville

I think I mentioned I did a lot of spinning over the Christmas holiday, right?  Starting with the pinky-rose stuff I showed a few days ago, and followed quickly by this:

That's pretty much in order from back to front, and goes a long way to explain why my right arm is so sore again today.  I should have called the chiropractor's office last week to book an appointment for today, and I didn't, and now I am sorry.  And at the same time: glad to have so much handspun waiting for the skein, Soak, dry stage.

The green at the back was from either a Blue-Faced Leicester or Polwarth sheep, I can't remember which.  It was okay to spin, but it took aaaaggges because it was from a generous 6oz skein and I was feeling compulsive about not stopping in the middle of one batch of fiber.  I think I did this in a day.  (hello, reactivation of cookie-making-related elbow/forearm problem that didn't get entirely fixed before Christmas.)

The four colourful balls in the middle are the first installment of the Twisted Fiber Art club for this session.  I ordered an 'evolution' this time instead of my usual self-striping option, which is why it seems to be four balls of unrelated yarn.  When I get it all assembled, it will shift gradually into each new shade.

I did both of those with my wheel on the same tension I always use, and got bulky yarn like I always do.  So I thought I might consider myself advanced enough now to try something different and gambled on some Fleece Artist blue-green merino I bought a while back and was afraid to touch.  (Best not to discuss its similarity to the 6-oz batch I'd done already.  oops.)

Ouch.  I bought this because some previous Fleece Artist merino from a kit had been the most wonderful spinning experience, back when I was using a spindle.  I don't know what was different this time: wheel? months of squashing in a crowded drawer? fate, laughing at me? whatever: it was agony to draft out.  My arm got really sore doing this.  On the upside, I am quite fond of the yarn I got.  Maybe I can knit a sling?

After that experience I was faced with resting my arm or getting back into the saddle, and decided to turn to my trusty old undyed Polwarth from Ashford, of spinning wheel fame.  Of all the spinning I've done, it's this which forms the most peaceful spinning experience I can get on tap.  It's lustrous to look at and cozy to hug, it smells sweet even after washing and knitting and washing it again, and it seems to go on forever because I bought 300g of it for a grand total of $15 and have barely made it through the first 100g, even now.

Plus: it looks as fluffy as buttercream icing.

(which I had on top of a cupcake over the weekend, incidentally.  it's been ages since I had the Real Thing.  it is awesome.  and superinsanely sweet. but fluffy!)

This fiber was definitely easier to draft out, even at the same tension as the blue-green Fleece Artist.  After a while a friend sat down beside me and I made him squish the unspun fiber to see how amazing it was.  He immediately became concerned I was ruining it by spinning it, because yarn is never as soft as this stuff is.  So when I pulled this ball together I tracked it down and made him squish it.  Ha! It's just as fabulous as it was before.

And now I have to go sew the button on a little present I'm giving later today.  One down, two to go, of the presents I ran out of time to knit before Christmas.  Go me!