Wednesday, February 29, 2012

My secret holiday

I forgot to photograph my most new-ish project yesterday so this morning I will tell you instead the little secret I have this week:

I am taking a holiday.

Shhhh! don't tell!  but feel free to try it too, if you can.

And don't wait for motivation like mine if you can help it: it's this darned cough, which gets worse - even though I am in every other way better - if I do stuff.  So instead of canceling things at the last minute or just going anyway and hoping to get through, I decided to give myself a psychological lift and canceled all my appointments for the week.

It feels like a total sneak, but I know it was the right call because I do actually find myself thinking in the middle of the day Oh! I - yep, really need to sit down.  And then I'm ready for bed by about 7pm.  I think of myself always as a lazy girl but even so, I can't help suspecting I am still sick.

I have given myself another mental break too - I'm not starting anything new (the newish project I mentioned was from the weekend, before I gave myself the holiday, so it doesn't count.) 

I'm rereading old books at bedtime because I know I won't fight sleep to turn the page, and I'm taking little forays into schemes that were already underway, like cutting the felted wool sweaters I took out of my yarn stash cupboard and actually cutting some of them into quilt-friendly squares.  That way I still get to be crafty but I'm sort of cleaning up, too.

In fact my desk is delightfully free of scraps of idea-strewn paper right now.  It's so restful.  Even though my mind is seething with ideas to work through later when I have the energy for them.

Highlights of the secret holiday so far

Watching the stack of felted wool squares piling up with really minimal effort (thank you, rotary cutting tools)

Visiting Pinterest to log my ideas for Christmas 2012 so I don't have to go through another last-minute KnitFrenzy (unless I feel like it, of course)

Sitting calmly at a clear table to knit even a few stitches

Listening to Martin Clifton reading me Queen Lucia while I work through the lace socks (thank you mom, for the reminder!)

Drinking the entire pot of really good Assam tea every morning

Looking at my totally tidy sewing shelf as I pass its closet and feeling glad to be able to get at the tools I want whenever I want without shifting three boxes or visiting four places

Happy sighs

The plan for today

More tea, more Martin Clifton, more lace socks.  I should book a haircut - I haven't had time for one since November - and I should shop for some cropped or roll-up-able pants for spring (gotta show off all the socks) but... really?  It's cold out, and I think a little nap is much nicer, don't you?

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Composition counts

Look, isn't this a beautiful alpaca sock?

(just nod and smile; I know it looks freakish with the skinny leg and massive foot.)

It's so soft and lovely.  And too short in the leg, but I can live with that. 

Didn't I do a wonderful job grafting the toe and running in all the ends to prove how easily I can live with that?  I didn't even try the sock on first, I was so sure.  I just followed my notes for the way I always knit socks of this weight and did the foot and then the toe and Bam! went for the finishing.


The foot is too short.  My other alpaca socks aren't too short - but they have merino heels and toes, which have give.  Alpaca and nylon, not so much.  I keep putting on the sock and walking around in it thinking I can learn to live with the short foot - really it's only a matter of a round or two that needs to be added - but why?  and also, the leg is SO MUCH too short.

Gah.  I'd rip it back to the start of the toe and revise just to get past the sad, but I don't have any needles to put it on, the relevant ones being otherwise occupied:

Know what?  I think I might make this sock the right length in the leg and the foot, and rip the other one right back past the heel flap.  It's not like they're not fast to do. 

(Or like I have anything else I should be doing.)

(and yes, that was sarcasm. the complicated lace socks are looking pretty good today: not sarcasm.)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Lace: is it really for me?

Just a couple of months later than planned, I've picked up the Bellatrix lace socks I started last October and had to put down when the Christmas KnitFrenzy heated up.  To recap, I retired from the field entirely crushed, having fought valiantly through a full lace repeat for each of the pair, only to discover I also had to knit another half repeat before I could start the heel.


I got through the extra rows on one of them.

Pretty, isn't it?  I don't know quite whether I can bear to continue this pattern all the way down the top of the foot, but I probably will because I know it will look so much better that way even though it is a lot of work.

Let's talk about what 'a lot' means, shall we?  Because I know a lot of people love nothing more than to knit lace, and I'm not entirely convinced I am one of them. 

'A lot' means I have not one but two charts to follow on every round, so YAY for my KnitPicks magnetic lace chart holder.  It also means forget watching a silent movie or even a super exciting one while knitting.  It means not so much chatting with a friend while working on the socks, or knitting in a car or on the bus, or knitting a few stitches between other chores.  Too risky - I might lose my place.  This in spite of having become expert at reading the last round's worth.

Criminy, what's left?

Took me a few days to figure it out.  Now I've got my little knitting bowl at the table to work around with tea, or after supper when I'm too lazy to get up.  I might not be able to read while knitting lace, but a pretty picture in my line of vision: yeah, I can enjoy that.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Luxury on the edge

All week I've been sick and unable to knit much, but what I have knit is this unbelievably soft and warm sock:

We'll just overlook the regrettable relationship between the colours and my condition and call them 'spring meadow', shall we?

I'm sorry I can't show in a photograph how incredibly soft and luscious the fabric is.  Perhaps we can make do with a closeup that reveals a little halo?

I'm going to compare it to holding the softest, cuddliest bunny ever, even though the yarn is actually mostly alpaca with a little nylon to keep it from shredding entirely underfoot.  Alpaca is not known for its stamina under abrasive stress.

In fact this is why, when I knit my only other skein of this yarn, I used a contrasting merino for the heel and toe.  I just didn't have anything to use that was a nice colour match for these and I felt too rotten to get off the sofa for a compromise when I got to the heel flap, so I just kept going.  What can I say, I'm a daredevil.

(a daredevil who will be guarding the remains of this yarn for future darning, which will probably be needed, though the previous pair of socks have been holding up extremely well even where the merino is not.)

(oh, and also: a daredevil who did not yet have pneumonia at the time of her doctor's visit.  just something yucky that required antibiotics.  apparently I will start to feel better sometime tomorrow so I plan to spend today sleeping and hopefully getting close to the start of the second sock.)

Hope you have a fabulous weekend - see you Monday!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Speaking too soon

Remember yesterday I was saying it was time to jettison some stash yarn and felted wool I may never get around to using?

(toldyaso alert: Kathi Taylor always tells me that the minute you do this, you find something you wish you had it for.  Which happened the first two times I did it even though she'd told me that, and which is why I only thought about jettisoning.)

Okay, so check out the sweater from yesterday's SouleMama post, a short sleeved high necked thing with just a row or two of contrasting yarn at the edges (so striking).  I used to look at these designs and think, Why? But not yesterday, not right after dipping the ample sleeve of my house sweater into the murky water sloshing around in a pan I was cleaning.  It's the same principle as a down vest except that it can be shapely and: it doesn't have to be soft.  Making it a perfect project for slightly scratchy yarn that's just a wee bit short of a sweater's worth. 

Hello, yarn in the filing cabinet drawers.

And tell me you don't see the two garbage bags' worth of felted sweater bits in these slippers from Carole Atkinson Textiles (a site at which I could spend a LOT of time and probably will.)  They were featured in the February 2012 issue of Country Homes and Interiors, a British magazine I treat myself to whenever I can get a copy, and which I was reading over supper.  That's so antisocial isn't it, reading over supper?  But everybody I have supper with does it too so if you didn't, you'd be really left out.

Of course I can't do anything about these enticing new ideas because I am SICK.  Again. 

Or maybe I mean still - it's  hard to say because I started with 'a cold' in mid January and got better for a day and a half before getting 'a cold with a cough' and then on the weekend when I was again better but for the cough I got 'flu' which hasn't gone away yet such that I am beginning to smell a rat.  Time to call my doctor, because I've had pneumonia before and two of my friends have it this winter, and you soooo don't want to let that go unnoticed.  At least one can knit in the waiting room, if one has the energy, and let's hope I do.

Either way, have a lovely day today and tomorrow I'll show you what I've been chipping away at all week!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

My yarn stash is scaring me

The other day after some houseworky boringness I read an e-mail from Trish, alerting me to a yarn sale.  Not an in-a-shop sale, but an in-an-apartment one: somebody was doing a very big destash.  She thought I might like to know for some reason that escapes me.

Well, the yarn being sold was as expensively delicious as it was copious.  There were several bundles of skeins more than sufficient for a sweater, not to mention endless sock yarn - possibly little enough to get through in a lifetime if there was no more yarn shopping happening ever.  And I had to congratulate myself on not overstashing to such an extent.

EVEN THOUGH the boring houseworky stuff I'd just done was to consolidate my felted wool stash so I could shift my yarn stash so there would be space for the yarns and roving I just ordered from Twisted Fiber Art.

That is scary.

But scarier is this:  My felted wool stash filled two garbage bags which are now sitting in the storage room waiting for me to decide how many scraps I need to keep and what I'm going to make with the rest.  I put yarn I'm probably never going to knit with into the three file cabinet drawers it had filled (it filled part of another cupboard too, which I've put something else into) and the now-less-crowded cubbies it had co-shared still look full.

And by 'full', I mean I have a whole cubby that is just sock yarn. 

It will take me years to work through it all.  So why do I keep buying more?

Never mind that.  The more pressing question is, is it bad that I keep buying more?

Erm... maybe that's also not a good question to ask.  How about, is there any chocolate?  Because chocolate is always a good answer.

(you know what, sometimes you just buy the wrong yarn for you.  or too much of the right yarn, such that there's still some left when you're ready to move on to a different favourite.  the trick is to let that yarn go entirely, rather than just leaving it to languish in a filing cabinet - and for that trick to work, you definitely need chocolate.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

But wait, there's more

I couldn't not let the Monet socks go without their own photoshoot, (especially since strictly speaking they were 'done' done first - they landed on top of the Finished Knitting pile and were then first in line for getting their toes grafted shut.)

I know this is just simple knitting, but oh how I love simple knitting that comes out looking and feeling this beautiful!  Have you noticed that acres of knit stitch don't always look so fabulous?  You might have a variation in tension that shows, or accidentally twist a stitch, or the yarn just might not sit perfectly every time.  This mohair/Romney blend from Stoddart Family Farm forgives everything and OH BOY is it warm.  And amazingly soft on your feet - you wouldn't think it, but it is.

I love the yarn regardless but Silvia explains that the reason you still find a bit of vegetable matter in it is that she's elected not to put it through the harsh treatment needed to erase those last bits of harvest.  Do you mind pulling out vegetable matter?  Some people do, I know - but I don't when I know the yarn has come to me just a short distance, in processing terms, from the animal it grew on.  In fact I welcome those reminders that I'm doing something emphatically low-tech.

I think this will be my last pair of Stoddart socks this season - the weather is starting to turn and warm already, and I'd feel more like I'm racing to catch up than wisely knitting ahead - but I'm hopeful about getting started soon on a pair of twined mitts with the same yarn.  Can you imagine how delicious those would be?

Monday, February 20, 2012

I can't believe it

I finished both pairs of socks yesterday before lunch:

And I simply can't believe which ones were done first.

I cast on for both on the very same day, and knit one pair - the ones with fewer stitches, a shorter leg, and the most mindless pattern - while I was out of the house while the other pair stayed in and got worked on only while I was on the sofa.  This at a time when I was out of the house a lot and busy with my sewing machine whenever I wasn't.

And yet:

The Zombies got done first.

This is Lorna's Laces Solemate yarn, in a short-run Zombie BBQ colourway I bought at Soak's online shop with a jar of Heel cream.  The yarn has a technologically advanced fiber in it that is very slick and smooth - quick to knit (evidently) and frankly not as warm for the very very cold yesterday as the wool/mohair blend I used for the Monets, especially with lace in the stitch.


But they will be fabulous spring/fall socks and I have already cast on another pair in my usual Vesper yarn so as to finalize the pattern which is, I think, another great solution to the Mindless/Interesting/Well-Fitting problem I so often face with socks.

This yarn does have a regular variegation - just four colours, each a couple of inches long - so I did get pooling around the gusset, which it turns out I don't mind after all.  (that is some powerful stitch to break up such strong pooling, don't you think?) The Vespers have more colours in them so it shouldn't be an issue.  I'm going to try it in stripes too, as soon as I can find some spare needles.

Maybe I should finish the cabled lace socks I started in October and free up those ones?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Too close to call

Guys, it's back to neck and neck on the sock wars here.  I did a lot of sofa time yesterday:

(and they match, in spite of my having made a couple of errors in the first sock's spacing and then losing my notes.)

After supper I got the second sock onto the gusset, which means there are maybe four hours left in it.

Last night though I had to be out, which meant switching to the Monets, and then I didn't do anything with them anyway, which turned out to be lucky.  Why: when I picked them up today en route to the Auto Show, I did a stitch count and realized I somehow have three more stitches than I should and have had for some time.  So I really need to rip back to the gusset on that one and decrease properly.

Realistically, I am probably looking at having two pairs of socks finished by Sunday night (which would be great since even I am getting sick at looking at the same two projects every day) but I have no idea which ones will cross the finish line first.

Tell you Monday.  Meanwhile, have a great weekend!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Best day ever

Thanks to a lot of racing around and compressing (or elimination) of alternative activities such as cleaning house, I got time to knit yesterday.

At home.  On the sofa.

Watching movies (Jane Eyre, Caine Mutiny) and documentaries (Himalayas, Twins.)

Part of the time I had tea and luscious chocolate cookies on the table beside me, and all of the time I had a blankie and a heating pad tucked comfortably over me. 

It was heaven.  I mean, seriously - how long is it since I've done that?  Six weeks maybe?  That is just not healthy.

Aside: the clothes in Jane Eyre are so Whoa.  Even the simple dresses are stunning!  I remember when the movie came out people were going berserko over the shawl she wore in it, and seeing it in motion I know why.   Carol Sunday designed a cute version of that shawl - love her stuff - and Melody Maria Fulone designed a pair of pretty lace mitts similar to the ones Jane wears in some other scenes (but you have to crochet for those.)

And now for what I know you really want to see (not):

Yes! Cue the pooling!  Well, it's not too bad really - just around the ankle where the stitch count goes a little crazypants, and then back to striping, which is a nice surprise since half the stitches are not being manipulated by the pattern any more.

The pooling on the other side of the sock is also striking:

I loved yesterday so much I want to do it again today with either TCM or the last two Harry Potters for company, even though I really do need to clean at least some of the house before nightfall.  I don't know what I'd do without houseguests really - not much else motivates me to take time for the vacuum, you know? 

So let's cue the suspense: how far can I get on the Zombies before it's too dark outside to take a picture?  Will they catch up to the Monets?  Will I be unexpectedly called away and made to finish the second Monet in a car or bus before the Zombies can gain ground?

Oh dear, I don't know whether I'm up to all this excitement...

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

5 Things I learned from blogs

I've learned a lot more than five things from blogs, but since you're probably sick of seeing how my sock race is coming along I thought I'd share these top tips from the last week:

1/ You can save yourself a lot of time by putting a tissue paper pattern between your needle and what you're embroidering.

2/ There is more than one way to knit a short row.

3/ Someone else's good photography skills can crush your self-esteem and simultaneously brighten your day.

4. Having a laundry room with space for a vintage table turned ironing surface means a lot more to me than I would have expected.

5. Life really is better with Japanese masking tape in it.

(Okay, I learned that last one from the stationery shop where I bought four rolls of patterned Japanese masking tape, but I only knew to look for it because of blogs.)

Have you learned anything from blogs this week?

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Crazy Cowl - a free pattern

Happy Valentine's Day!

When I first started getting this pattern ready to share, I noticed that I've sort of set a tradition of posting a free pattern on Valentine's Day... so I thought I'd hold out and save it for today.

So crazy, this cowl.

The pattern is designed specifically for the irregular but usually bulky yarn weights you produce when you first start to spin your own fiber - but it would work really well with commercial yarns too.  And because handspun varies so much, I've included advice for adapting the pattern to suit whatever weight of yarn you care to use.  Even if you would never dream of spinning your own yarn you can still make use of this Valentine's gift.

The fun thing about a Crazy Cowl is all the shapes you can make with it.  The entire cowl is buttonholes, with one (very large) button at each end; you can wear it close or loose or right off the shoulder, and leave a button-free corner hanging down or tuck it in.  Whatever suits you.  Or the weather or your outfit or mood.

And no matter how weird your cowl looks when it's done?

It still looks good on.

I hope you have a happy heart day, even if it's not Valentine's when you read this! And thank you so much for visiting here at Hugs.

Download .pdf of Crazy Cowl

Monday, February 13, 2012

The great sock race

The last time we looked at what I was knitting, I was pointing out how much more I seem to be knitting out than in, judging by my experiment in socks (Monets for transit, Zombies for the couch at home.)

Well, here is my tally from the last five or so days:

That's the Monets.  The incomplete sock is the product of about four days of being out on buses and sitting in waiting rooms or other people's cars.  I have to think that's a sad testament of how much time I've been doing those things, though of course I'm happy to have turned that time to some use.

And here we have the Zombies, measuring how much time I've had on the sofa this past week:

Couldn't you just cry?  Well, probably you couldn't, but I could... good heavens, I'm not even finished the gusset of the first sock.  This is partly because I accidentally knit an extra inch or so on the leg before I noticed, but mainly because

a/ I have not spent much time on the sofa; and

b/ Even when I was on the sofa, I was so exhausted I could not always even pick up my needles.

Seriously.  And when on earth does that ever happen?

There's still hope though.  I haven't started the foot of the second Monets yet, and my current sewing projects are done, and the laundry is totally caught up, and I'm more in than out this week.  Let's just hope I don't suddenly get to feeling that the world will end if I don't vaccuum, okay?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Railyard Scarf - a pattern for sale

PLEASE NOTE: this pattern is now free :^)  There is a link at the bottom of this post to download it.

And now, back to the scarf.  (honestly, every time I see this picture I want to pet the screen.)

I made a matching set of these, which you may recognize from my references to the SuperSecret ScarfyThings aka the projects I did not quite finish in time for Christmas this year.

Here is what happened.  The small friend for whom I made the Milkshake Scarf a mere two years ago appears to have outgrown it already, and asked for another using This Yarn, in Blue ('This Yarn' being a ball of Supreme Possum Merino, but more on that in a moment.)  I couldn't not do it, of course, but I was faced with a problem.  Several problems in fact.

1. How many more scarves am I going to be making for Small Friend if he keeps on growing?  Clearly I need to make something longer... long enough that it will do him for a while, and then work for a girl.  Because of course you can't just waste a special knit like that while it waits to get passed down.

2. What stitch is going to be interesting to knit, but sufficiently manly for Small Friend to wear, and mindless enough to cart around everywhere because it will take me a year to do something that long?

(I never get tired of how it bunches together into warm little folds under a collar.)

(actually it only took about a month. it's pretty portable and I was out a lot at the time.)

3. And it has to stand out over all the halo from the Possum.

4. And be reversible.  (not that I ask for much.)


Having solved those problems, I was met with another - Small Friend's older brother, previously uninterested in scarves or anything else handknit, suddenly wanted one of these but undyed.  Might his sudden enthusiasm have had something to do with the whole 'looks like train tracks' thing?  Because both of those boys love trains even more than I do.

Incidentally, all these photographs are of the Child size/S scarf; I've included yardage and instructions for a Youth/M (I'm not taking any chances with Small Friend) and an Adult/L.  But Pete was surprised to find that the S was not ridiculously short under his coat or too narrow around his neck, so you can probably improvise a bit with yardage if you need to.

* * * * * *
A Word About Possum

The idea of wearing fur is (understatement alert) offputting for me personally, but possum fur has its own story, the conclusion of which is: buying products with possum fur in them helps New Zealand's environment recover from the massive damage caused by the overpopulation of this non-native species.  You can read all about it at the sidebar here.

A Word About Yarn Substitution

You can make this scarf with any fingering weight yarn, not just possum ones.  Especially any fingering with a fiber-related halo.

* * * * * *

Railyard Scarf

A pattern in fingering-weight yarn for the train lover in your life.

Difficulty Level:
Easy - if you know how to yo and K2tog, you're good to go.

Supreme Possum Merino (50% merino wool, 40% possum fur, 10% silk, 229 yds/50g;; you're looking for the 4-ply weight), 2 (2, 3) skeins [Allow 350 yds/76g (458 yds/100g, 560 yds/121g) for sizes S (M, L).]
4.0mm/US 6 lace tip needles, or size to get gauge
darning needle

22 sts/30 rows = 4” in stocking stitch

Instructions are given for sizes Small, Medium, and Large, to fit a child (around 4.5' tall), youth, or adult.  
Width: 7.5 (7.5, 9)” 
Length: 45 (56, 60)”

Click here to download Railyard Scarf

Thursday, February 9, 2012

10 Things that aren't knitting

1. Cutting out a ton of fabric for Valentine projects is not knitting.

2. Neither is sewing them together.

3. Drafting out an essay on yarn stash management is not knitting.

4. Looking over the stash while preparing the essay and transforming into a deer facing headlights is definitely not knitting.

5. Coughing and blowing your nose and crawling toward the bed with a bright wool blanket in tow are not knitting.

6. Reading Diana Wynne Jones books as if they're about to be taken from you is not knitting, though one could knit while reading them, if one were not quite so immersed and turning pages so quickly.

7. Preparing knitting patterns is not knitting.  I can tell because I don't leap onto my desk-stool crying out 'Oh Joy! I get to format, and check math!' (this is also why I am not a technical editor; I can tell because I do have this level of enthusiasm for editing text that is not directions for knitting.)

8. Reading heartwrenching essays on the power of friendship is not knitting, but it is worthwhile, even if you do - literally - have to wipe your desk dry afterward (this one is courtesy of Wayson, which makes it all the more awesome to me.)

9. Sitting on the sofa looking at a book in spite of being inches from a pair of socks in progress is not knitting, even if the book is by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee*, and especially after a week of not getting any real time to knit.

10. Cleaning the bathroom mirrors is so not knitting.  It's not even a good excuse for not knitting.

One thing that is knitting?  Riding a bus or other vehicle of public transportation.  Thank goodness or I wouldn't have knit anything yet this week.

* If you've read the same book, you'll know that it includes a study of why 'I don't have time to knit' is a misconception by non-knitting strangers who spot you knitting.  My gut reaction to this is, they probably mean 'I don't have time to learn to knit', and they might really not.  Learning takes time.  But after this week I would say that 'I don't have time to knit' is a perfectly valid remark.  Knitting takes time - often the same amount of time it takes to sleep off a cold or sew Valentines or just stare at a wall if you need to do that.  No shame in it.  Just no socks either, dagnabbit.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Pining for twining

The other day my first shipment arrived from the Stoddart Family Farm wool share:

(1 skein shipped flat: brilliant!)

And of course, now all I can think about is finally twining a pair of mittens.  This yarn is the very warmest of the hardy yarns I've tried, and you won't believe how perfectly this colour goes with the Monet sock yarn - of which there seems to be rather a lot left over.

I wonder where I left my notes from the twined mitten class?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Feeling hopeful

Actually I'm feeling like I would happily crawl back into bed if I had the least opportunity, but that's probably the lack of tea talking.  (I hope.)

Moving past exhaustion, let's talk despair.  I haven't been able to spin fiber in forever - forever not being defined as 'since the ill-advised cookie baking marathon that gave me a repetitive stress injury' but as 'since I realized spinning makes my injury so much worse as to be not worth it' (which was about six weeks later.)

During forever, two more shipments of Twisted Fiber Art club roving arrived at my door.

Berry came first, on a superwash Blue-Faced Leicester base...

... and apparently did so while I was still thinking I could spin it, because I went ahead and tore it lengthwise into four strips to preserve the colour evolution.

Then I got Velvet, on 'Festive', which is a merino/silk base...

and really fell in love.  In fact I ordered a ton of this stuff in yarn form when the club ended, which is partly why you are reading about my spinning dreams today and not my proposal for better stash management.  (though to be fair, my proposal is based on the reality that one will go on buying more yarn than one needs.)

Probably I shouldn't have kept the Velvet braid on my desk to gaze at every waking moment, huh?

Cue the light at the end of the tunnel.  My arm is feeling a lot better!  It's still a bit sore, and I have to remember not to turn doorknobs with my right hand and stuff, but I can see the possibility of spinning either it or the Berry pretty soon.  Like, maybe today - assuming I can drink enough tea to stay upright.  (because I'm seeing my chiropractor again tomorrow.  Twisted roving is the easiest stuff to spin, but even Velvet is so not worth the risk of more pain.  owie!)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Neck and neck knitting

Owing to twin distractions of my new sewing machine and an unusual influx of books by Diana Wynne Jones, I'm really only actively working on two knitting projects right now.  Since they're both socks I've been doing a bit of an experiment.

Question: where do I knit most - watching TV, or not?

The Zombie socks are wedged so nicely into a bucket in my coffee table cubby, I hate to move them to any other location, even temporarily.  If I sit down to watch TV or a movie or just have some quiet time under good lighting, I pick up the Zombies.

But the Monet socks are portable, and the only non-mindless thing about them is that they're on superdupersharp needles.  I have to be extra careful not to knit too close to other people because I'm so nervous about hurting someone.

Early in the week, the two socks in progress were about equally as far along.  The Zombies have a pattern stitch - and now that I think of it, more stitches overall - so naturally each round takes a bit longer than the Monets, but my being a homebody should sort of balance things out, right?

Not so much.  On Thursday I had to take a streetcar clear across town, on Friday I was busy sewing, and on Saturday I had to go out of town unexpectedly in somebody else's car.  Consequently,

I have all but finished the first Monet sock.  (don't you love how the only places I got dramatic pooling put the foot purpley-blue and the heel and toe more greeny?)

The Monets don't have it all wrapped up yet though.  The Valentines' sewing is as done as it's probably going to get, I'm on the last book and trying to eke it out, and I'm still sick, which means if I'm not asleep I should be resting on the sofa instead of vacuuming or cleaning the bathroom or some other crazy thing I hear people do on a semi-regular basis.

Also: at some point over the weekend I dropped a stitch on the Monets, and put it back on the wrong needle, and didn't do a stitch count before I started the toe.  On the right side, the decreases are now skewed toward the sole, and I might yet decide that bothers me enough to rip back and redo them. 

(or I might go ahead and graft the toe and move on with my life.  It really depends, possibly on chocolate.)

Friday, February 3, 2012

Zombies underfoot

Turns out I did take a picture of the zombie barbeque socks (courtesy Solemate from Lorna's Laces) - I just forgot to get it into the computer:

I said these were addictive to knit, right?  And in an aside you are totally not going to care about, they are so easy to pick up and put down.  Their little project bag is wedged into the plastic tub in my coffee table cubby and there seems to be just enough ease that the yarn comes off the cake as I need it, without the cake popping out of place.  So literally, I just sit down, reach for the needles, knit, and shove the needles back on top of the tub when I have to stop again.  Usually I have to pick a bag up off the floor and put it back on the top of the table such that they will not fall off and roll under the sofa.  I could easily knit two or three stitches in the time that takes.  That adds up!

Oh all right.  Here's something you might care about:

this is not self-striping yarn

Seriously.  When I wound it into cakes I freaked out because the colour changes are so fast: I knew this stuff would pool like nobody's business, and I'm... well, I'm just so... tough to find a word for this... Type A??? when it comes to pooling.  In fact you can see from the cuff how much this is so.  See all the pale yellow? on the back it's just green, with some red.

I had a leg up (ha) on this problem because I pored over my copy of Carol Sulcoski's Knitting Socks with Handpainted Yarn when I first got it.  I knew that you could break up pooling with lots of increase and decreases and general shifting, and indeed the book itself is full of patterns categorized for different degrees of variegation. 

The problem: none of them meet my current criteria of Dead Easy (ho ho.)

Fortunately I stumbled across a pretty awesome stitch that fit into the math for my standard sock and shuffles around the stitches while offering long periods of plain knitting so I can keep my speed up.  No pooling, and now I'm getting stripes, and texture, and enough erratic movement of holes and bumps to make me think of the way a zombie lopes around looking for its next brain. 

Overall I'm quite pleased with myself and also pleased that I seem to be sick again, since it justifies popping the copy of the latest (though no longer recent) Jane Eyre movie my aunt loaned me into the DVD player and knitting for a couple of hours.  Since I took that picture I've gotten so close to the heel of the first sock I can nearly touch it.

Have a lovely weekend all, see you Monday!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Changing my stride

There is SO much thinking in my head these days, all of it existentially crisis'd, most of it as a result of being tired all the time.  As in, why am I tired all the time?

And of course the answer is - I bet this will ring a bell for you too - I'm doing too much.

But here is the kicker.  The much that is making me tired is the stuff I actually enjoy and do for myself.  Nobody's holding their breath for it.  For example, I can count on one hand the people around me who long for handknits, and I'm one of them - yet I keep taking time to knit X for Y.  Conversely I can't count high enough to get to the number of designers who put out knitting patterns.  I can't even count high enough to get to the number of designers whose new patterns I eagerly await before every release. 

Anybody will tell you it's important to do what you love and love what you do (and if what you happen to love is creative work, they might add that you should do it for love alone because odds are you're not going to get paid for it!)

I've always taken that advice and I still agree with it, but I'm rethinking my unfortunate tendency to set goals related to the things I love doing and cling to them... even when they're unrealistic and even though I get so tired trying to keep up.  So lately I've been thinking:

Do what you love when you feel like it, because you feel like it, and without fear that anybody including you will be disappointed if you don't.  If somebody loves you, it's for you, and not the hat you may or may not have lovingly knit in return.  If you donate something for a fundraising silent auction, you've participated even if you don't make something to go with it so it's even extra personal.

Or alternatively, cake is still cake without icing.

First Test

Opening up my first parcel for the current Biscotte club:

Sometimes the pattern arrives in my inbox before I open the yarn, but it was the reverse this time and I spent a couple of hours out of the house thinking SOCKS!

The actual pattern?  HANDWARMERS! which are so, so cute.  Stranded with hearts on the palm and oh - just adorable and so Valentiney - and obviously designed with so much time and love and fun.  I've designed for Biscotte myself and I know how that goes, so  I really want to make them.

I also really want this yarn to be socks because it's Felix, which I adore for hardwearing socks.

I spent a good part of yesterday wrestling with myself on the question while frantically working on other things for which I have set totally arbitrary personal deadlines nobody else will care about.  This morning?

Nope.  Not fussing over this one any more.  My personal shipment of yarn wants to be striped socks.

(With maybe a round of stranded hearts from the handwarmer pattern because they are just so CUTE.)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Putting my affairs in order

I spent most of January recovering from December, and setting myself up for a year of Good Things, knitting and otherwise (but mostly knitting, because that's so much easier to control don't you find?)  Part of that has been finishing off stuff I'd left undone, and another part was knitting Christmas gifts for people I kinda missed that deadline for, and the most fun part was knitting some presents for ME.

Like my next-to-last pair of wool/mohair socks from Stoddart Family Farm:

I'm calling them my Monet socks.  These colours are soooo peaceful and springy.

And I love how, in spite of all the tiny colour dots, I'm not getting any pooling to speak of (I just can't bring myself to count that green patch, it's so tiny, and anyway every meadow has a few places where the wildflowers haven't taken over yet.)

I've also been making socks out of the yarn I bought for somebody else to give me for Christmas - the Zombie BBQ colourway kit from Lorna's Laces, via Soak (it came with a jar of Heel cream in it, if you recall.)  These I seem to have neglected to take a picture of, but I will, promise.  Eventually.  They are pretty addictive and it would take a better person than I am to be able to put them down for a mere camera.

You might think there is no urgency to all this - after all, it's another 10 months till things really heat up again for pressure knitting - but you'd be wrong.

Because lookit what came in the mail on Monday:

Yep.  It's the Biscotte yarn club, where you get a custom pattern with each skein.  I get to open the February one as soon as I'm done writing this, but I have to wait till March and then April for the other two.  (April's feels like it's already been wound into a cake.  I am SO EXCITED.)  And this time, I really, really want to knit every month's yarn before it's time to open the next.  Wouldn't that be a great way to start the year?

(I know, I know, I still have to finish the socks from the October club... gotta finish the Monets first, because they're warmer!)