Thursday, May 31, 2012

Zen and knitting

I find the concept of Zen - the way the word itself has come to represent calm and wisdom - so fascinating and soothing.  In some ways, it’s a lot like knitting.  It’s got simplicity, patience, attention to detail, and it celebrates organic qualities. 

The part I struggle with? 

The idea of transcending the material.

Because I have a lot of material for crafting. 

Not as much as Cathe Holden though; I must say that her remarks on the temporary storage in her driveway made me feel tons better about all the sock yarn I wound into double cakes up there. 

Speaking of sock yarn: yeah, I know, I seem to have a lot.  And after I got it all divided into two cakes of equal weight, involving many many hours of winding and weighing and snipping and packaging with labels, I realized I had forgotten to wind a few more skeins that lurked in the bottom of some other storage drawers, so – basically, I'm never going to knit all the socks for which I have yarn.

All of which means that these two cakes really stood out for me as possible shawls. 

They are from Viola and I love them, which is totally unrelated to the question.  The question is, how many shawls do I have already and how many more do I need, and if I need  more do I need them in these colours?

I agonized about this for a long time, wondering whether perhaps my thought of shawls was connected to my thought of being really really sick of winding yarn cakes. 

Then I carried the cakes to other people who don’t knit and don’t care and think I’m a little crazy over the whole knitting thing to start with, and I asked them whether these two yarns should be socks or shawls.  Some said socks, some said shawls, perhaps according to preference and perhaps because they wanted to go back to whatever it was they were agonizing about.

Then suddenly I thought, I am definitely crazy.  I bought these things for socks, and I need subtle semisolid socks, and they should be socks.

So I wound them into double cakes.

And you know what?  Maybe that’s where the Zen lives in the wonderful world of yarn accumulation.  Letting the yarn be what it wants to be.  Even if it wants to be part of a huge pile of as-yet-unknit yarn.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Knitting: thrills and spills and giveaways too

So many excitements to share - where to start?

* * * * *

Yesterday my course moved on to teleconferences and web meetings, which is to say: listening and occasionally taking notes, rather than reading on my own.

I can knit while listening and occasionally taking notes.

So, bliss, for the almost-two hour meeting yesterday morning I knit along while watching charts unfold on my computer screen, explained by really a very gifted teacher.  After two weeks of poring over books I didn't always understand it was this close to heaven. 

Until it wasn't, but more on that later.

* * * * *

I've been invited to participate in a blog tour to promote a new knitting book which I think you guys will be as thrilled about as I am.  Partly because it is going to be a go-to volume for any knitter's library (I know it'll be a biggie in mine) and partly because

I get to give a copy away!  

The title?

Cast On, Bind Off, by Leslie Ann Bestor.  Yep, we're talking 50 different ways to start and end every conceivable type of project under one adorable cover (seriously, if you turned those swatches sideways and put the Princess to bed on them there is no way she could feel a single Pea.  They look that squashy!)

Not to mention that after the fiasco that was my last shawl, where I was supposed to learn a new cast on for the first 6 or so stitches and was too lazy and basically ruined the shawl which now curls with determination where I used the wrong cast on, I need this book.

So stay tuned - I'll be posting my review and doing the giveway in early July.

 * * * * *

Speaking of new publications, have you guys seen the 2012 edition of Knitscene Accessories?  I saw a preview the other day and went, WHOA.  There are some fabulous patterns in there.  

Then I got an e-mail about its actual release and, YUP.  Gotta have this one.  Check it out!

(ps, digital or print edition, do you think?)

* * * * *

Meanwhile, Louise has come up with another amazing club project for Biscotte et Cie - socks with owls on them, complete with owly-hued heels, toes, and cuffs.  I am swoony with delight.  Also with the prospect of yet another sock project for the queue, but I might not be able to resist, it's too awesome.

(Icing on the yarn cake: you can buy the kit or the kit with matching owl project bag.  GAH, resistance, it's futile)

* * * * *

Okay, so back to my current socks.  I was so, so excited to be knitting away in a meeting again, knowing I was disturbing no-one (no webcams required.)  I was also excited to be knitting so far away from the safety pin that marks the end of the gusset, because it meant I was getting closer to the toe decreases.

When I drew near thirty rows out I glanced over to see if I had an extra safety pin marker on my knitting bag, which I didn't, and wasn't going to leave the meeting to get.

Then I noticed the foot was really long.

Then I found the missing safety pin.

It was already marking 30 rows from the gusset, which means I went just a whole ton of distance over what I needed for the toe decreases.

Le Sigh

Good thing I can frog just as easily as knit while paying attention in a meeting, huh?

* * * * *

(Okay, disaster aside, I am feeling a lot better today about this whole course and testing thing.  Maybe it's because the instructors are really good and the study materials equally so, but I think it's because I finally got to knit again.  Don't you?)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Study aid

While immersed in the reading for an exam I’ve got coming up – which is taking me a really, really long time mostly spent trying to stay in a chair with the book – I discovered some new uses for a straight knitting needle. 

And that’s sort of helpful since I have so many of them and I mostly use circulars and double points these days.

Check it out:

Backscratcher (self-explanatory)

Bookmark (for where you leave off, where you have a question, or what page you want to get to before you let yourself get out of the chair again)

Line Marker (the bright turquoise needle I’m using makes it so much easier to focus on the bit I’m trying to retain)

Pointer (useful for asking questions about a specific passage from a more informed person standing some distance away)

Drumstick (for drumming out beats as you read, which may or may not aid in concentration but is fun, so, Yay!)

Knitting: aren’t we lucky to know how, and to have all the multifunctional tools to go with?

In other news if I don't fit in some actual knitting today I think my head might explode.  Last night I was on the brink of carving out 20 minutes to watch a documentary and get the second variegated sock to the toe decreases when I realized my printer doesn't work now that I've upgraded the router that died the other day...

and the new router wouldn't let me adjust its IP address to match the printer's...

and so I lost about 90 more minutes to technology...

and after I fixed it with a USB cable and did the quiz I wanted the printer to help me study for and it only took 10 minutes instead of the 40 I was expecting which would have meant 

30 glorious minutes

of knitting time, I realized that the notes I'd been trying to print all that time were already printed and bound neatly for my reference, amongst my study materials.


I will do better tonight.  I gotta.

Monday, May 28, 2012

You can't knit with Mickey Mouse hands

You may have noticed a dearth of Works In Progress here at Hugs and I’m here to tell you it’s not from a lack of interest.  There are so many things conspiring against my knitting and sewing and lying around doing nothing schemes, and lately it seems even the weather is joining in.

Mickey Mouse Hands Defined

Many many years ago I went for a walk on a lovely day and, with no pressing matters to cut it short, ended up strolling along for several hours in what eventually became unbelievable heat.  When I finally decided to stop for a cold drink I fumbled to pay for it and discovered my hands had grown to Mickey Mouse proportions from hanging downward all that time as the temperature rose.  Gah!  Heat and humidity = not your fingers’ friends.

The Curse of the Mickey Mouse Hand

The other day I had to go and run errands (aka Bus Time) and when I scored a solo window seat I discovered the horror: I forgot to put knitting in my bag.  I nearly cried.  Well, okay, not really, but there was some gnashing of teeth until I realized I couldn’t knit even if I had brought anything because my fingers were all puffy and non-nimble again.

Same thing happened at a concert the other night.  I went early figuring I could knit while I waited for the music to begin, and once I sat down I didn’t even bother taking my sock – I had remembered it this time - out of my bag.  Too Darn Hot.

Circumventing the Mickey Mouse Hand

Still, ha! You can slow me down, but you can’t take me right out of the knitting picture.  By aid of the cool basement of my house and moments stolen from study time, plus a long trip in an air-conditioned car last weekend, I finished one sock.

Okay, I didn’t graft the toe.  It’s still good enough to count as far as I’m concerned, though – that little step can wait, because MAN, it’s not like I’m gonna need a wool sock again for a while.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Knitting is mostly illogical

It struck me again yesterday that knitting in this day and age is just the most ridiculous thing to do. 

I mean, knitting a sock?  Even assuming you don't have to buy a pattern, if you use hand dyed yarn you're looking at around $24 for materials, plus $6 minimum for needles, plus about - okay, let's be conservative and say 30 hours for fingering weight at $6/hour which is a gross undervaluing of a knitter's time - $180 in labour costs.  Who pays $210 for a pair of socks?

And then there's shawls.

a/ how many shawls does one person need?

b/ how many shapes are actually practical for that one person's lifestyle, personal style, and body shape?

(in case you were wondering: no.  we're not going to complain about hats here. hats are perfectly sensible to knit and it's necessary for everybody to have 437 of them, especially me.)

When I look at my supplies of handknit everything I think I must be totally crazypants.  The socks, well, fine.  They keep your feet warm and what's mean to show, shows the way it's meant.  But I don't think I've knit a single shawl that I didn't end up just wrapping snug up around my neck to beat back the cold in the winter.  Guess how much of a lace pattern carefully knit into such a shawl actually shows when you wrap it snug up around your neck?  Not much.

Nope: I could stop knitting any minute now and I would not miss out on a single opportunity to get warm.  In fact the only compelling reason to go on knitting at all is that I have a ridiculously huge amount of yarn to get through.  It's just irresponsible not to knit something with it: almost as irresponsible as it would be to buy any more yarn, ever. 


Did I mention that the latest Twisted club is over?  and I have until Sunday night to decide whether or not to order any more of the yarn that came out in it?

This is 'Talisman'.  My heart goes pitty pat over these colours.

And hello, Tomcat.

Wasn't I just saying the other day that nobody knits in black?  Well, the coordinating semisolid to go with Tomcat is shades of black, which is perfect for me really because I wear a lot of black and it would be super nice if just one thing I knit could blend in with that.  Plus the orange is a really nice depth.  Sort of Halloween-y but suitable for all year round.  Plus if the yarn showed up in July I'd have time to knit something for Halloween in it.

Or to be more succinct about this entire post,


I have less than three days to come up with some sort of project I absolutely must have some of these colourways for, and then justify the expense, and then figure out what yarn bases to choose.

Normally justifying expenses is my strength (you may have noticed) but this time, given all the stash already at hand... I don't know, guys.  It's gonna be hard work; you'd better leave me to it and go have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

No-brainers and second guesses

I spotted this bag yesterday and knew immediately it had been waiting for me to come and buy it:

I would have wanted it even if I hadn't actually been in the process of looking for a bag that would make it enjoyable (and to a lesser extent possible) to carry big textbooky things.

Bonus: it's from Matt and Nat, handbag designers who make amazing use of recycled materials.  There wasn't a lot of information on this particular bag but judging by the warehouse items at their website the exterior is 'Japanese paper' and the lining is, as always, plastic bottles.

Bigger Bonus: it weighs practically nothing.  I mean, think 'T-shirt'.  I'll only be carrying the weight of the books.  (and some knitting, but knitting weight never counts, right?)

Super Bonus:  I bet I could fit a whole sweater project in this thing, if I ever get going on a sweater project again.

Super Duper Bonus: check out how cute it's going to be with my new skirt!

I'm not sure about the wisdom of pairing this deeply orange skirt with a red patent belt but I think I'll do it anyway if I can figure out a top half that works - with the bag as part of the outfit, it's pure sunset.

The skirt is to wear while I'm carrying and working from the textbooky things, and since it is linen and goes all the way to my ankles I deem it Awesome. 

Less Awesome: the other skirt I bought which does not quite go to my ankles and is actually pants.  Yup, somebody invented the maxi skort.

I love it for my everyday life, but I realized too late that it a/ cost a lot more than I might have expected; b/ is apparently not suitable for textbook days; c/ is not returnable, which adds up to ouch.

Also ouch is that the big fold across the front, which I thought was a giant knitting pocket, is actually just a fold and not attached to anything across the hem at all.  Lucky I checked before I threw a sock in there!

In the face of the double ouch I decided I had better start wearing it asap and forever, which meant unpinning the tag and making a wonderful discovery:

It's one of those bulb pins I've been longing for from the English dressmaker's supply shop whose international shipping rates are so very painful (but look downright enchanting by comparison with skort prices)!

There are two good things about actually having one of these pins in my possession:

1/ I have a fun new marker for either stitches or rows

2/ I now know I have no desire for a box of bulb pins

(because you know what?  they are kinda pinchy.  as in, ouch, for real.)

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Therapy Socks

Even though I did lose my shoes and then left home without my mobile phone and had to go back for it plus the errand list I wanted to get through after my dental appointment yesterday, I thought I was super relaxed about having a cavity filled for the first time in at least ten years.

I mean, hey! I remembered to bring a sock to work on!

And then in the waiting room, after cheery exchanges with the receptionist and the dental assistant I pulled out my sock and suddenly thought,



and then


i didn't bring a stuffed animal

When I first went back to the dentist as an adult following a long separation from my hometown one, I had to bring a stuffed animal with me every time to get through all the work I needed done.  Maria, who was the dental assistant even then - it's a new dentist now but she stayed on - was very sweet about them all and my original dentist was eventually able to congratulate me on being able to come to a checkup without one.

Well, yesterday I wanted one, and what I had was knitting, so I was Resourceful.

I took the pattern out of my knitting bag, a linen satchel from Tiny Happy, and rolled the sock in progress around the needles for maximum squish before stuffing it back in.  And then I just held that bag.  It sat in my lap for the duration, getting flipped over or around every so often when I noticed I was clutching it in a death grip.  It really helped!

(That and the classical track from 'calm radio dot com' which was offered to me through headphones.)

Test Questions

1. Do you think the musicians who did the recordings for calm radio had any idea their work would eventually find an audience in people undergoing dental procedures?

2. Where did I finally find my shoes?

3. How relieved was I to have them back?

4. How far did I get on that sock, anyway?

5. Will a bag of knitting be sufficient to get through other dental procedures such as replacing an old, deep filling?

Answer Sheet

1. I hope not.  Though on the upside, what other audience is more desperate to offer undivided attention?

2. Not in any normal dumping point or at the cottage as very much feared, but in an outside pocket of the suitcase that had been to the cottage.

3. SO relieved.

4. Into the toe, hurray!

5. I don't intend to find out.  Somebody's coming with me next time - maybe Edgar, my Easter bunny?

or... h'mmm.  maybe that cake of delicious yarn he's posing with.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Socklets when cute

The thing about stripey socklets is that, even when they are a drag to knit they are super practical to have, and even when botched they are oh-so-adorable to wear if only you have the right shoes:

I forgot I had these red suede babies until last week when I had to go to a dressy-uppy thing for which my clunky but orthotic Mary Janes would definitely not do, on a day that was too hot for boots and too cold for my pretty new sandals,

(which, incidentally, turn out to have been the really bad idea I had a vague niggling clue about and ignored at time of purchase)

and sat down in despair before my drawer of Shoes I Can't Wear Any More looking for something I could make work for a couple of hours.

Now of course I have a problem because I have proof that handknit socklets were a good idea just when I'm well into the season most likely to call for same and have no time to finish the ones in progress or amend the ones I finished with errors.  Dang.

In only partially related news, did you know you can still buy sockets, ready made, in a store?  They're not easy to find unless you're looking for nylon, but I'm pretty sure I spotted some bright stripey non-nylon ones a couple of weeks ago before turning up my nose and passing them by.  Of course there's no comparison really but...

... if only a tiny bit is going to show...

(okay, I'll stop now.  go knit something! and be glad you're not getting cavities filled today like me.)

(this time around I'm not so annoyed about the cavities as I am about the lost potential for knitting time.  does that make me more grownuppy because at least I'm not shaking with fear over it, or less because my priorities are so skewed?)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Colour love

Before I show you any pictures from the colour game I played this weekend, try to imagine being at a window that overlooks three different back yards, two of which are having their grass cut.  That's my world right now and these colours look SO much more amazing to me with the smell of summer and fresh cut grass wafting past.

This is toffee coloured rust on black wrought iron, from a gate in front of Canada's Parliament buildings.  For a long time I would never ever wear brown and black together and one day I thought, Hello, why?  This picture confirms for me that they look fantastic, and if you have a shade that really pops it's definitely worth knitting brown into black.

(though realistically, how many of us knit with black yarn?)

Speaking of Pop, it's tough to beat red over sand.  I like it over the grey-blue of the window's reflection, too.

This is the same building as the flag one - the lower windows' grills were painted in this heritage blue you see on a lot of older buildings and really, I think the combination evokes a lot of history as well as looking pretty peaceful.  In knitting I think I'd prefer the blue as the base and the sand as the pop.  What about you?

I made another short trip to the cottage, this time to go through all the closets and drawers and get it ready for summer use.  I found so many treasures - my uncle has an incredible eye for old stuff and he and my aunt entertain a lot so they had a need for multiples of everything - and after washing these two trivets and the bright red tray I stacked them and noticed how awesome the cream is over top of a colour riot.  The red of the apple isn't the same shade as the red floral border but it does ground the mixture.

I guess the lesson from my weekend of photography is that I like neutrals with brights?

Here is a detail from the middle trivet - wouldn't these colours make an amazing Fair Isle?  The fuschia really stands out for me, and the turquoise of course, but again - check out how the neutrals help to ground them, while tying them together (even the blossoms have a slight pink blush.)

And another on the same theme - colours that are just over the top, toned down to an overall effect of calm and elegance.

Okay, enough birds, let's look at that crazy folk art tray:

Just last week I visited the blog of a woman who loves nothing more than these wild prints, and it looked to me like she could find something new to write about them every day.  (and now I am kicking myself for not noting the name of it: sorry!) I don't actually love this look but her blog gave me a new appreciation for it and that was lucky since I was about to find this tray, which my aunt used to hold her cottage teapots.

Another thing I really like about this tray?  It's the only thing I found that breaks from the cottage's prevailing theme of orange/brown/green and justifies my purchase of these two fabrics, for curtains:

We seem to have gone from sombre and muted to crazy super bright, so let's go back to something a little more natural:

the view from the window of the living room at the lake.  Of course we all know that blues and greens look great together but I noticed in this picture that the blues of the lake and sky are different from each other, and the greens vary from dark and old to new and spring.  There's some white in there too.  Another great Fair Isle combo, I think.

Putting together these pictures made me think about shape and line and style.  But that's a topic for another day - right now, it's time for me to tuck in to a lazy long weekend chair with another cup of tea! Hope you're having a lovely Monday too (even if it's not a holiday where you are and I just rubbed it in, heh.)

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Being spontaneous + colour game

This weekend is a long one where I live, and I decided this evening to celebrate by seeing how much I can get done by staying offline.

I hope not a lot because otherwise I might feel obligated to do this sort of thing more often.  Ack!

After deciding that and then scrambling to get boring stuff out of the way first - things like putting groceries away so I don't trip over them while dashing about being superproductive - I spotted something exciting.

Don't these colours shout Stripe Me?  And also, Put Me In A Different Order?  which I would have done if I had given myself any longer to fuss over the photograph.  That orange so totally wants to be between the blue and the purple... though of course, it would be if the three of them were striped together in more than one repeat.  Where would you put the green I wonder?

In any case: I decided right then to play a game throughout my offline weekend which is, look for colour inspiration in really unexpected places.  If it turns out those colours also exist in somebody's yarn stash, so much the better, especially if it's mine because I might be motivated to knit faster then. Maybe you'd like to play too!

I'll be back on Monday but probably not at dawn (holidays = sleeping in), and hopefully I'll have some colourful pictures that might be yarny or just pasta-related.  Well, probably not pasta-related.  It's Been Done.

Have a great weekend everybody, see you soon!

Lace sock in progress

At last, I have a share-worthy (if not award-worthy) picture of the lace sock I've been obsessing over:

I haven't had a lot of time for it - and I suspect it should be a lot longer than this even in the time I have had because it's a worsted weight yarn - but I've enjoyed every stitch.  The yarn is Twisted Fiber Art's 'Yummy' and if you work with it you'll know why it got that name (hint: there's cashmere in it), the colourway 'Slate' which is a coordinating subtle for Bookworm, if like me are in love with the bluey grey tones.

Knitting worsted weight socks is such an attractive proposition because they go


but at the same time, they are gonna be warm socks and there is absolutely no point in putting an elaborate design of holes into them.  I have learned the hard way that lace doesn't make a hot sock cool enough for warmer weather, but it does make a medium-temperature sock totally unsuitable for weather that is actually, unarguably, cold. 

So: I really should not be knitting holes into these socks.  Probably a raised increase would be smarter.  On the other hand, yarn overs are so fun!

And also, So hard to photograph well! 

Because the grey, much as I love it, is kinda dark. 

Even though the dark colour is great for my wardrobe, I can't help thinking the lace would show up better in a brighter colour.  Of course, that would probably mean me buying more yarn which I'm not supposed to do right now for reasons I can illustrate overwhelmingly next week because huge piles of yarn are not hard to photograph well at all.

(you know where this is going, right?)

Luckily I am pretty sure my yarn-buying break doesn't apply to picking up a few favourites from the end of the current Twisted Fiber Art club.  I don't want to post it here lest I spoil somebody's surprise in their own mailbox (click on Hugs' google+ page for a pic of the braid if you're curious) but

omigosh omigosh omigosh

it's a perfect smorgasbord of lace sock colour choices!

(or maybe I mean, lace hat colour choices?  though it's illogical to put a lot of holes into a hat too, isn't it.)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Applications for stocking stitch

The other day I noticed that 80% of what I'm knitting right now is stocking stitch.  Acres of this stitch is just the most boring thing ever for a lot of people but when I took a closer look at my own works in progress I was reminded that it is also incredibly beautiful and versatile.

If you're knitting in the round, it's just knitknitknit; if you're doing a flat piece of fabric, it's knit one row and purl the other - hello, usefully mindless knitting - so that all the loops are falling to one side.  Because the loops aren't nesting over the previous row the way they do in garter stitch, where the loops alternate falling to the front or back of the fabric, your work gets longer faster.  And for impatient knitters like moi, this is such a nice thing.

If you knit on needles smaller than the size of the yarn would normally require, you get a tight stiff fabric perfect for something that will see hard wear; if you go with bigger needles, you get drape.  And you can make either side the 'wrong' side because they are both pretty.  (I wrote this and realized immediately that I forgot to photograph any of the purl sides of the projects I'm working on.  WHOOPS.)

Best of all: it shows off the yarn you're using.  I left these pictures pretty large by the way, so feel free to click on any of them for a closer look.

Stocking stitch is a great backdrop for colourful stripes:

If you're knitting yarn with a big halo around every stitch there is no point in getting fancy - nothing will show anyway.  But plain ol' stocking stitch?  Luscious.

Sometimes with variegated yarn you need to go with a fancy stitch full of increases and decreases at some distance from each other to make sure you don't get big patches of just one colour, but if the yarn does huge colour shifts every inch or so, stocking stitch is the fastest way to celebrate the riot:

My personal favourite is how a hand-dyed semisolid yarn looks when you just let it be.  There may be pooling, but it will be lovely.  And in the case of my slouchy hat, I'm also going for drape.  Is it my imagination or can you actually see how squashy and cuddly the fabric is coming out?

Okay, there is that problem with the boredom factor - acres and acres of nothing but the same hand motion and the same view every time you look down.  But you can totally fix that by changing the view - by, for example, knitting multiple projects with very different yarns.  It was an accident born of chronic overcommiting, but who cares: Go Me! and Go Stocking Stitch.