Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Twined knitting is slow knitting

Yesterday I mentioned that I don't know how I will get my twined mittens finished before the Olympics end.  That is because since I started on Friday evening, I have gotten this far on Mitten #1 (and am not quite as far as that on Mitten #2):

I'm not even 100% sure these babies will fit; the pattern called for 56 stitches which I quickly ripped back to so I could add another 8, but since then I've increased to 72 stitches and it's still going to be snug through my hand.  I think the next weight up of yarn might have been a good choice after all.

Narrow stitches usually go along with abbreviated row heights, but that isn't the only reason it's taking me so long to show progress.

See, when you twine your yarns, what you're really doing is twisting one strand around another, for every stitch.  On the back, the texture is very tight:

and should be warm, which is why it's worth doing if, like me, you live in a city that's cold in winter (most years.)

But the side effect is: hello, you are twisting with every stitch, and the twist is traveling into your yarns.  Check out how tightly over-twisted that makes the yarn between my fingers and the mitten, compared to the looser yarn trailing from the other side of my hand:

To say nothing of the way that extra twist travels down the working yarn as you knit:

The bottom line is, you have to stop and release that twist every so often, which in my case is every 18 stitches.

I couldn't take a picture of this while I was waiting around knitting today, owing to not having the necessary 4-5 hands, but I can describe the process.

First, you put down the working needle someplace where it won't drop, roll away, or stab somebody.

Next, you push the last needle you knit onto and the next needle in line down as far as they will go without dropping stitches.  And do the same for the other two needles, where they face upward.  You're getting them out of the way so they don't catch the working yarn.

Finally, you raise the working yarn so the mitt is dangling, and pull the two strands away from each other so the twist travels down to the needles.  The mitten will spin until it runs out of twist, and then you can pick it up, push the needles back where they should be, and carry on.

(until you've knit another 18 stitches.)

Can you say, GAH! ?

On the upside, this is knitting you can do without anything else to entertain you, which is very handy if you are waiting around knitting... sadly less so while trying to watch the Olympics. 

Short Version of This Story

I am totally finishing Bob's socks before I finish my twined mitts.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Sizing a sock

In spite of being a bit frantic to figure out how I can possibly finish a pair of twined mitts before the Olympics end (we'll talk about that later this week) I did have to take a break on Saturday to work on Bob's socks.

Bob lives about 5 hours away from me, which - even though he is pretty tall - is a long way to stretch out a leg so as to let even the most dedicated knitter measure out a sock in progress.  So I gotta grab my chances if I'm going to come up with something that will fit him.  Bob was at the cottage this weekend, and that meant I was knitting his socks.  Or rather, looking at his feet.

(I'd just like to say that I've known Bob for over 45 years, and somehow he managed to get away with spending most of our childhood summers barefoot, so it's not like I've never seen his feet before.  Still.  Not something I anticipated doing so much of back in January when I was dreaming of cottage life.)

Turns out, my suspicions from two years ago when Bob was letting me put Robert's socks-in-progress on him to test for length were justified: Bob has... erm... distinctive feet.

See where that arrow is pointing?  See how the heel flap and the gusset line don't quite line up?  That's because I've had to add in eight stitches for the foot that I didn't need in the leg.

And I'm not using tiny needles or laceweight either so you can just make a guess there at what that measures up to.

Can you imagine what would happen if I had tried to knit these for a surprise?  They'd look gorgeous as he pulled them out of the gift bag, and they'd feel amazing in his hand as he reached to try them out, and then... they wouldn't go on.  At all.  And I'd be stuck with a knit that took hours and hours to be entirely unusable.  (except that they'd probably fit Robert.)   So cruel, on all counts.

Anyhoo - what I did here was measure Bob's foot and his lower calf to determine the difference in measurement, then calculated how many stitches were missing to make that up.  'Eight' made things easy - I knit two extra rows in the heel flap so I could pick up an extra stitch there, and then I slipped that new stitch plus another stealth one to the needles for the top of the foot.  I'll stop decreasing for the gusset when I have two more stitches on each of the remaining needles than I had for the leg...

... and then it's just knit knit knit to the toe.

Which will hopefully not take long because there is another sock to do too and a pair of mitts that really want to be all finished and decorous in - what, 13 days from now?


More tomorrow - happy knitting today!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cast On, Bind Off - the giveaway post

It's giveaway day!

or rather, entry day - on Thursday August 2nd (midmorning, Toronto time) I'll do a magic Random Number Generator trick to gift a copy of Leslie Ann Bestor's Cast On, Bind Off to some lucky reader who commented on this post.  More details on that at the end.

* * * * *

If you've been following along on the blog tour, you will have a very clear understanding of

a/ the awesome functionality of the book's spiral binding;

b/ the clarity and thoroughness of the description and illustration for each method covered; and

c/ its compact size for toting around wherever you take your knitting.

Today I would like to tell you a different story.

A few months ago, I got very interested in knitting a crescent shawl.  I have a lot of triangles and they're great - plus, super easy to shape while knitting - but did I say 'a lot'?  and they don't all stay on and nicely draped even if I pin them, plus I'm unconvinced this is the best shape for me.  I just don't wear triangles all that fabulously, and a more hugging-shaped crescent seemed like a great idea.  So I bought a pattern I loved

and drew some very precious yarn from my stash
and found some needles I knew I'd enjoy using
and sat down to cast on the 10 or so stitches that would start my shawl.

And was stymied.  See, the pattern specified that these 10 or so stitches should be created using cable cast on, and I had no idea what that was.  I know that if a designer specifies a particular type of cast on or bind off, you're supposed to do it - they've given thought to the matter, after all - but I didn't feel like going upstairs to hunt through all my books and/or search YouTube for cable cast on videos that I would then have to sift through for one that actually made sense to me.

So I shrugged, and cast on using longtail, which was the only cast on method I knew.

Seriously: I've been actively knitting since I was 15, which is A Very Long Time Ago, and whoever taught me to cast on didn't mention slip knots so I don't even do that.  How can I be a grownup-ish person and longtime knitter and not know how to do a slipknot?  Easily, apparently.

About 20 rows into the shawl I knew I had made a terrible mistake, but if I didn't feel like looking up cable cast on before, I certainly didn't feel like looking up cable cast on now so I could rip out to start the shawl all over.  I just kept hoping I'd be able to block out the terrible roll I was getting at the top center of the shawl from my too-tight cast on technique.

I wasn't able to though.  The shawl's cast on ended up looking like this:

and I ended up looking sad.  It's such great yarn, and such a cute pattern, and I really messed up.  Lucky I have long hair and nobody but me (and all of you guys) have to know the top of the scarf I have around my neck is curling in on itself.

(in case you want to know, the dreamy pattern is Rose Beck's Sugared Violets; the dreamy yarn is from Emily's out of production Viola line.)

* * * * *

All of which is to explain why, when I was invited a couple of months later to participate in this blog tour and receive a review copy of this book I didn't wait to say SIGN ME UP!  The opportunity was, as you might say, made for me.

Naturally, since I am extra busy these days, my idea to prep for today's very special post was to begin a new shawl.  I chose special yarn and a beautiful pattern and some good needles and sat down with all of them plus Cast On, Bind Off and

you won't believe this

the pattern recommends a longtail cast on.

But if it hadn't, and I'd had to do cable, I would have been just fine.  I know because when I looked in the very orderly Index I found three different entries for cable cast on, including a reference to the manner of slipping stitches when doing one, a photograph of how pretty it is, and a three-page description with photographs of how it's done.

(this last reference identifies cable cast on as firm and inelastic, which makes me wonder how it would be better than longtail for Sugared Violets, but that's probably something I shouldn't think too much about at this point.)

* * * * *

Now, as it happens, an awful lot of we knitters started a special project the other day to knit while watching the Olympics, and I am no exception.  What I cast on is mittens built from twined knitting, a technique on which I took a one-day class just over a year ago, aka long enough to forget everything, especially the cast on method.

Never fear, Cast On, Bind Off is here!

The books covers a special cast on for twined knitting in three colours that is lovely... except that I am using one colour and was trying to watch the Opening Ceremonies at the same time, so I couldn't figure out how to follow the pictures.  I quickly switched to the much more appropriate two-colour braided cast on and did it with the two stands of my single-colour yarn choice.  Easy as pie, including the slipknot I had to learn how to do from the pictures at the front of the book.  I think I'd have to refer back to it a few times to get 'slipknot' embedded in my brain, but who's gonna mind that in a book that's lightweight, compact, and practically exhaustive?  Not me.

In the end, and without the gorgeous contrast of two colours, the cuff of my mitten project looks like this:

and yes, I did mess up on the sides there, but considering the distraction factor while I reviewed the instructions I think it still indicates the power of clear writing and illustrations.  Thank you Leslie Ann!

* * * * *

Okay, that is the end of my very long story about casting on.  Do you have a cast on and/or bind off story to tell?  Any thoughts on the subject to share?  Feel free to add it to your comment - and please do comment, because I'd love for you to have a chance at having Storey Publishing send you a copy.  There's no need to add an e-mail address into your comment if you have one linked to your profile, or better still if you drop in on Thursday August 2 (again, midmorning Toronto time) to see who won the Random Number Generator's heart - if you win, you can just e-mail me your address.

Good luck!  and be sure to drop in at The Knit Girllls on Monday the 30th too, for one more chance at winning a copy of the book.

* * * * *

And... comments are now closed.  Thanks guys!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Time to knit: Olympics edition

Public Service Announcement

Have you been following the Cast On, Bind Off blog tour?  Because it's nearing its end and if you want to win your very own copy, you probably have some commenting to do.  My turn to post (and to invite comments for the giveaway) is this coming Sunday, so be sure to stop by and find out whether or not I have anything fresh to say after a whole ton of other bloggers' posts on the same subject!

(hint: I do.  but this leaves the question: what?)

And now, back to our regular programming

(except it's not so regular, being Olympic-grade.)

* * * * *

So guys, are you ready to cast on?  And what are you going to be knitting while you watch, or follow along in the news, this summer's Olympics in beautiful London, England?

Here is my dream... to knit a pair of twined mittens that are the same size as each other, and warm enough to get me through some seriously cold winter days.  You may recall that I had a setback at the beginning of the process when I realized I'd accidentally put too much of my dream yarn into a pair of socks - too much, that is, to face ripping them out.

Fortunately I had roving in the same fiber and a very similar colour, so I decided to spin my own yarn for the job:

Of course, as I was finishing off the last of the fiber I discovered that twined mitts are traditionally made from yarn spun counterclockwise and plied clockwise, which is GAAAAAHHHHH because naturally, I had spun clockwise and plied counterclockwise.  However, that wasn't the worst.  The worst was, this yarn is too bulky for me to get the 9 stitches per inch I need for the pattern I chose.  Also: a little uneven.  Not as inconsistent with the bunching and the slimming as I usually spin - it's progress - but not easy to knit a pair of consistently well-fitting mittens with either.

Fortunately, I had more of the same fiber in a lighter weight and a different colour:

I hustled some other projects off the needles I use for this weight so they'd be free for knitting two mitts concurrently, and then discovered I don't get gauge with this yarn either.

Fortunately, while looking for other yarn I'd misplaced so I could cast on for something I should totally not be thinking about right now, I spotted still more yarn in the same fiber, even lighter weight, and a different colour again:

Or maybe not so different a colour?

Maybe... pretty darned close to the yarn I'd accidentally used for the socks, which wouldn't have worked for the mitts anyway because they are the same weight as the blue/green stuff?

Naturally, this is the one I got gauge with.  Using needles that weren't tied up with anything else at all, to boot.  Le sigh.  (someday I will learn to not second guess myself, and also to label the yarn I set aside for specific projects so I don't panic like that again.)

Honestly though, it is interesting how three yarns can look so similar and yet have such different size possibilities.  Check this out:

Looking at them together, you would never expect the bigger two to get the same gauge as the thinnest, but taken separately, I almost always do expect to.  Too much dreaming I guess.

Yarns: all romney/mohair blends from Stoddart Family Farm
Pattern: Two-End Mittens by Carol Rhoades, from the original Homespun, Handknit

Good luck to everybody who's knitting in the Ravellenics, and best wishes for a nice peaceful relaxing weekend for everybody else - see you Sunday for some Cast On, Bind Off fun!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Closure for longtime projects

With my July spinning-fest behind me, I took some time this week to get all the plied balls of yarn I'd made into skeins so I could wash and dry and cake them for use.  Just before the 'wash' part, they looked like this:

Spinning effort number one, easy superwash merino from Twisted Fiber Art:

Spinning effort number two, slower romney/mohair in a two-ply from Stoddart Family Farm:

Spinning effort number three, the same romney/mohair but in a different colour and a three ply:

Gotta say: three ply is amazing.  That was really my goal for this year's Tour de Fleece, spinning something (anything) fine enough to be able to get away with three ply, so even though I didn't spin every day or get through my whole stash of spinnable fiber, I am still pretty happy.

(after all, I still haven't knit very much of what I spun last year, so what's the rush?)

 * * * * *

While these new yarns were drying I went through all my other project bags to revisit what I was working on when the whole Studying For Tests thing hit in May.  I went through two months of blog posts to figure out when I started them all, approximately, and then I updated my Ravelry project page.

It is so great to be able to keep track of, easily and prettily, all the projects you've done, don't you find?  Gives you a sense of accomplishment even on days when you realize you've done nothing but wander the house starting things and not finishing them, and it's 3pm and you're still in your PJs.  (mind you, I find those days usually turn around by 8pm, when I'm suddenly inspired and get a huge thing done in an hour I'd expected to spend all day on.)

Not keeping up with my Ravelry page has been weighing on me a little, because I know being too busy has cost me that simple source of delight; getting all those socks up and the pictures in place felt fantastic.  Of course since then I've gone through more little bags and discovered other neglected projects to load up, but it's a start.

* * * * *

Since I'll be starting some twined mitts on Friday for Olympics-watching, I also hunted for needles, empty project bags, and backup yarn in case the stuff I spun for the job (effort number three) doesn't work out.  Guess what?  It probably won't.  I'm supposed to be getting nine stitches per inch for the pattern I chose, and I get seven on the needles I want to use with yarn slightly thinner than the homespun yarn.  Not looking good.

* * * * *

What did look good was assessing what I still have on needles that I shouldn't have on needles.  

Like a hat that got almost up to the crown when I suddenly decided I couldn't decide yet how long the hat should be before the crown.  I looked it over, pulled out a ruler, and came to the conclusion the crown should start right now.  So I started it, and made a note.  If it goes on sitting, at least I'll know right away where I left off when I have time to pick it up again.  

Also: Bob's socks, which are on needles I want for my twined mitts (I think) but on which I will also have to work during the Olympics, because I am seeing Bob this weekend and it would be really good if I could fit the socks to his actual feet.  As I recall from trying Robert's socks on Bob last year, I may need to have more stitches in the foot than I do in the leg, or at least a much larger gusset then normal, for these things to be comfortable and, consequently, worn.  Which is mostly the point of knitting socks for Bob.

(needle solution: I put the shorter of Bob's socks-in-progress on a holder, and confiscated that set of needles for the first mitt, then put the Red Hot Blues socks onto holders so I can use those needles for the second mitt.  I know if I don't knit them concurrently, they won't match.  Bob's socks on the other hand can happen one at a time, at least as long as I'm getting over the heel/gusset complication.)

(benefit of needle solution: I can totally justify buying even more sets of square double-points now.  I mean honestly, who wants to have to do all that choreography more than once or, worse, finish projects before starting new ones?)

* * * * *

Late in the day the three-ply skeins were dry enough to wind into cakes, and while I did that I noticed some very loose fiber that never really got any twist in it, at one of the ends.  I also noticed a small section I'd overspun which is kinked up on itself and has no give.  Mostly though, the yarn came out soft and relaxed with just enough tension.

I wish I'd been able to take a picture of those three conditions to illustrate the thought that occurred to me, but hello, indoor lighting + un-energetic camera?

So I will just tell you about something very interesting that somebody said to me a couple of weeks ago and that stayed.

When we're faced with a difficult thing, the natural instinct for some people is to protect themselves against it, by limiting exposure or relieving their stress before it builds up.  For others, it's simply to walk in, unguarded, and explore it - thereby leaving themselves open to a world of pain.  I know that there is a third group too who steel themselves so completely against the difficulty that they never really see it, or its outcome, or how to recover from it - and as a result they lose functional capacity without ever knowing it, or knowing why some things are harder for them.

Looking at those three parts of my yarn, that message really hit home.  We all need to have enough 'fight or flight' in us to stand up to the strain of life; too much and we can't do a good job, too little and we could break apart.

* * * * *

And with that my friends, I am ready to face some new projects - something for the Olympics, something for Bob, something for fun, maybe, if there seems to be time.  I'm ready to graft some sock toes shut, and I'm ready to accept that it's time to put away some fabric and yarns I know I won't get to for a very long time, if ever.  I'm just ready to be ready.  Because life keeps coming at us, doesn't it, and I want to be on the middle ground.  

Hope you're there too, and I hope I see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The law of diminishing yarns

While I was on all those long forested winding roads the other day, I got to knit a lot of sock.  For a couple of weeks now I've just been mindlessly working on socks, changing from cashmere fingering to mohair sport whenever my fingers got bored, and suddenly, near the end of the last forested winding road:

I was finished the knitting part of the second cashmere sock.

Yay for carrying both projects with me because I was able to put down my Cucumber Sandwich Socks and pick up my Red Hot Blues.

La la la, knitting... and then, suddenly:

(no picture available of startling moment)

I realized we were getting Very Very Close to the Rollercoaster Road.

Now, if there is one thing you do not want to be doing on this bumpy winding road, it is picking up stitches around a heel flap.  And guess what I was knitting at the time?  Yep, the heel flap.


While I was bobbing around in the lake after this incident, a neighbour I hadn't met yet paddled over in her kayak to say hello and to chat.  (I love this about cottage life.)  Apparently the year she and her husband decided to buy a cottage and got to hunting for the ideal one, they were expecting a baby; they picked the cottage near ours because after driving in on that horrible bumpy Rollercoaster Road, layering carsick on top of morning-sick, she did not want to drive in to look at any other cottages.  I don't blame her.  Also: I now feel SO much better about knitting on that road!

End Digression

So I knit like the wind to get the whole sock back on four needles, and made it with a round to spare.

And thank goodness, because for some reason the road was even more rollercoastery than usual.

You can imagine how I got to feeling pretty complacent about the sock after that.  Partly from beating Rollercoaster Road at its own game, and partly because I was beating myself at mine - specifically, the game where I second guess myself about how much yarn it is going to take to get from cuff to toe on a top-down sock.  Usually I end up with a too-short leg on my socks because I panic early, and lately I've been schooling myself in the art of Not Doing That.

As a result on the drive home later (taking advantage of the moderately less rollercoastery access road) I was all

la la la

knitting my sock

aren't socks wonderful

there is something so earthy and reassuring about knitting your own socks

la la la let's pause for a cookie and




Not enough yarn.  No way, no how, not gonna cover my whole foot with this little scrap of yarn.

I panicked for a while, trying the 'knit faster to make the yarn stretch' trick (I swear, all knitters do this at some point, and it doesn't seem to work for any of us) and then I remembered:

I had anticipated this eventuality way back when I bought the yarn.  The solution was at home, but it existed.  Also: I had remembered to pack spare needles to hold the toe stitches, thinking I might actually finish this sock while I was away. (ha.)

la la la, started the next sock.

I'll show you the fix when I get it to a photograph-able state.  Meanwhile: let's all remember that knitting is just knitting, and running out of yarn doesn't have to be the end of the world.  And a good thing too!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Spinning up trouble

I wasn't sure this would work out, but I am done! By which I mean, done spinning and plying the raw material for the twined mitts I want to cast on, on Friday.

There is still a lot of prep left to do with it but I'm feeling optimistic because last Saturday, things looked pretty awful on the Making Deadline front and I still got to this better place.


This is the fiber I had left to go, plus the spun singles I had pulled back trying to figure out where was the end that broke off while I was spinning, plus what remained on the spindle, when disaster started to strike.  I have never ever had this happen before, but I've also never spun mohair so finely before - when the thread breaks, the halo is so intense and the fiber so grabby, you just can't find where the loose end is!

And that was a problem for more than the usual reasons.  Specifically:

I was at the cottage.

The out-of-lake temperature was a little warmer than I enjoy.

The birds were singing.

The sun was shining.

All my friends were in the lake swimming and snorkling...

and I was in the living room, longing to be outside and spinning as fast as I could go.

The same problem happened at least twice more while I got more and more frantic but in the end I was able to swim for about ten minutes before supper.  Yay!

And after supper I celebrated with a picture of the very last ball of spun fiber for the mitts.

In the background is the hammock I didn't get to enjoy.  In fact I haven't been in that hammock once this summer.  I probably need to relax more.

The next day we drove to Ottawa, where I did not get to see Karen, which is very annoying because I also missed Karen last time, but I have hope it won't happen again that I am too busy for playtime, because Karen is fab and spins so much better than I do, such that I learn something new every time I see her.

On the way to not see Karen, the sky was pretty cloudy, and there was a long debate about a particular cloud that could be interpreted to be an old man, a dog, a bear or Jay Leno.  I personally felt it looked exactly like a contented sheep, but didn't think to take a picture until the wind had blurred the edges into a contented Impressionist sheep.  Still.  Passing resemblance?

Heading back to the cottage later by a route my cousin recommended, there were also a lot of clouds but Oh. Golly.  Who cared?  The scenery was aMAzing.  I mean, I've lived in Ontario most of my life, and I know we have trees, but I don't think I've ever been on a road where it's trees as far as you can see and, oh, by the way, a ridge of more trees off ahead of you as well, for nearly two hours.  With just an occasional break for marshland.

I know this is a terrible picture but it's the best of the twelve I took and honestly, isn't it amazing?  All I could think about was the settlers who came to this part of the world hoping for a better life and actually did pull off homesteads.  And what I was thinking was, how???

Makes my spinning problem seem pretty slight by comparison.

By the way, those are the new car print pillows up there on the pine bench.  this is what they look like on the new sofa that doesn't match anything:

I love them.so much.  Just... not really enough to want to sit in with them when I could be out swimming instead.

Hope you've had a great few days doing everything you want to be doing instead - see you tomorrow!

* * * * *

ps, you really wanted more pictures of the forest highway, right?

Friday, July 20, 2012

The perils of planning ahead

Spontaneity is such an amazing and freeing skill and I really wish I possessed it but: nope.  I'm a planner.  I will plan the most elaborate things even though I am certain they will never, ever happen, and I also plan things I hope will never, ever happen, like me getting on a plane again some day.

Reeeaaaally don't want to get on a plane ever again.

Reeeaaaally gonna be getting on a plane to go to Italy next spring.

TOtally need to get some hypnosis sessions booked and also:

some yarn and patterns lined up for over-the-ocean knitting.

It's got to be a shawl, right?  I mean, it can't be a hat (too quick) or a cowl (ditto) or a sock (too many needles to drop) or an average sort of sweater (too much yarn to carry).  I can knit a shawl on a circular needle and when you get to the 468 stitch stage there's no problem with time consumption.

What it can't be is a lacy shawl, because I always need lace tips for those, and lace tips are so stabby I feel sure they would be confiscated before I got on board.  And that, my friends, would be awful.

All of this muttering has been playing on a continuous loop in the back of my head as I go about whatever else it is I'm going about, and especially as I open up the sorts of packages that turn out to contain things like this:

and this:

aka the yarns I bought from Twisted Fiber Art after the last club. 

Seriously: I did the unthinkable and bought a whole skein of black yarn. Was that a mistake do you think?  Or - given that it's called 'whisker' and must therefore be perfection - will it just lead to a Thing of much fabulousness?  (I can say Thing here, because there is no need for the halloweeny Tomcat yarn to be a shawl.  It can be a hat or a pair of mitts if I want.  Right?  except that it's going to end up being a shawl, I can tell.)

The noteworthy thing about these yarns in the context of this story is: I planned for these, and I can't for the life of me remember what the plan was.  No clue.  I planned too far ahead and scribbled my notes down on a scrap of paper that left my desk sometime during the last three times I filtered all the loose bits from my desk into a giant bag to go through later.  I may never find them again.

Meanwhile, the same package contained this sample of Vintage, a colourway I have been longing for, forever:

The base yarn is Kabam, the bamboo blend I keep thinking I won't like.  Know what?  I like.  Maybe I should buy a whole skein of that for my airplane shawl.  Maybe I should find a good pattern too.

Fun Weekend Planning

The weekend is too close to be perilous to plan for, so I don't mind telling you I will be spinning and eating chocolate and possibly sanding and waxing an old chair this weekend. 

Trust me, I really know how to live it up! 

I hope you have a wonderful weekend too and that you drop in again next week, because I might actually have a finished pair of socks to show you somewhere in there.  Fingers crossed - or do I mean toes?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Pillow talk

My current sanity list consists of one productive thing a day (folding a giant mound of laundry counts), plus one crafty thing for the cottage every week, because the house is too messy to do a crafty thing justice.

In compensation for the Herculean effort involved in last week's project of Picture Window Curtains, this week is all about:

fresh covers for the old pillows in the living room.

(can you tell which is the before and which is the after?)

Market Survey

Now, as it happens, I have been looking at a lot of storebought show-pillows lately.  The current trend is big and puffy, down filled (even if it means the stabby part of the feather sticking out at you), and/or heavily textured/embroidered.  Indoor/outdoor fabrics are also popular, though not at my local decorating store which is disappointing since I'd really prefer not to have to sew for that.

The trouble with big and puffy?

You can't stuff big and puffy away from the mice when winter comes.  Not without a lot of vacuum storage and/or giant plastic tubs, and who wants to store those all summer?

Nope, the old style of pillow - the 14" square and pretty-flat ones that have been up at the cottage for ages - those are the ones I want to slip behind my back when I spin yarn, or collapse onto when I come in from bobbing around in the lake, or look at when I want to see the new curtains tied in somehow with the new furniture that really doesn't match yet. 

Fabric Love

Another reason I was anxious to recover the current cushions was that in looking over some fabric I succumbed to not long ago, thinking of spontaneous home-sewn small-child birthday gifts because
I have oh so much time for that...

Digression Alert

I was in a hospital gift shop yesterday and do you know how much it costs to buy a beautifully handknit baby sweater and send your proceeds to hospital programs?


and for this I am storing acrylic yarn for the baby sweater I still haven't cast on?

End of Digression

... I realized that this little print of heavy traffic is the perfect choice for cottage cushions.  Not just because of the cute contrast of Busy City with Lakeside Forest, or because these little cars perfectly echo the past and present colours of the cottage's decor, but because

they are adorable!

Closer look, maybe?

I just love them, can't get enough.  They are my superfast homesewn version of Connievan crochet (see Attic24, frequently, for this reference.)

More Fabric Love

Becoming committed to using the traffic fabric for the living room made me think of some other fabric I liked.  Last week when I was hoping to use some lovely drapey white linen for the curtains in my cottage bedroom and unable to find suitable lining for it, I tried to make do with the heavy red upholstery cotton way up there in the top picture.  BLEH.  The linen's drapeyness was lost and it was just depressing.

Then I remembered this fabric, of which I bought not enough for anything really, but which looks pretty good with the white linen:

Isn't it cute?

Really, really cute?

Like, so cute you can't believe that it not only recalls those innocent 1970s childhood road trips to campgrounds (and this very cottage), and matches perfectly the closet curtain-from-striped sheet that my aunt sewed for my cottage bedroom 35 years ago, but also has in it salmon cars that match the salmon dresser in said bedroom?  Salmon cars that look pretty darned cool?

The little rolling roads make me so happy, and I don't even like driving.  Fortunately I was able to buy some more of this fabric - how much more I will not know until it arrives - and with luck those curtains can be next week's cottage project.  And when I show you those, I should also be able to show you how cute the traffic pillows look on the new sofa because Yay, I finished them after I took the pictures in this post.

And they are truly fab.

Plus: done this week's cottage project with two days to go.

Go me!

and go you! hope you're having a productive week too.

(fabrics from Alewives, in the 'children's fabrics' section. sorry, I think I bought out both prints, but there are some other pretty great choices there that I haven't managed to do that to. yet. ahem.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Thank you, Bertha

As promised, I have now taken pictures of the Very Special Knitted Thing I bought myself on Sunday:

It's really two things, isn't it - two mitts.  Or rather, they are two things.

Here is what happened:

I'm pretty certain that no matter how hard I try I am not going to pull off a pair of warm twined mittens during the Olympics this summer.  I'm not that great at knitalongs to start with and this one in particular depends on things calming down for me and getting magically tidied up and organized which isn't happening by a long shot.

(also I am once again distracted by a limb swelling up from excessive blackfly bites.  Pete just saw me with the camera and the mittens and did a big dramatic sigh of relief that I wasn't photographing my elephant ankle to post on my blog, which is why you're not seeing the picture I just took of my elephant ankle.  ahem.)

So when I went into the totally charming Old Hastings Gallery - seriously, check the link for some vicarious browsing - and saw a basket of these totally charming mittens, I said


and scooped up the first pair I could reach.

The mitts were sourced from Northern Watters Knitwear in Prince Edward Island, which is sort of appropriate for me since the nicest childhood summer holiday I had, apart from the ones at the cottage I now own (still can't quite believe that), was in PEI.  It's sooo lovely there!  And apparently it is peopled with super speedy and generous knitters because - especially since my new mitts are made with British Wool that still has the lanolin in it for maximum waterproofingness - you will not believe what the mitts cost.

But more on that in a minute.

My mitts were knit by Bertha Tuplin, and they fit me so perfectly that I think she must have knit them for me personally without knowing it.  Well, maybe she didn't, but I'm going to think it anyway because it makes me feel so much better about maybe not making it with the twined mitten plan.

So: thank you Bertha!

Thank you for knitting my dream mittens.

Thank you for putting so much more roving into these mitts than I did when I made thrummed mitts for myself.

And thank you for only charging $50 to do it.

Even the right mitt is in shock!

(okay, really it's just inside out.  see what I mean about all the roving??)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Don't drop a stitch on a roller coaster

On the one hand, going often to a summer cottage means lots and lots of knitting time, especially if somebody else is driving.  On the other hand, if the somebody else chooses the road...

Here is the thing I remember about visiting my uncle's cottage every summer: the roads in were very bumpy and twisty and the dads' cars were very land-yacht-ish, with long long hoods that obscured the grade and direction of every descent, which led to many adventures (and, I'm sure, under-breath expletives).

Of particular Wheeee! calibre was the road you took to church on Sunday if you were super late, and guess what?  This weekend we were super late.  And when the roads were improved with paving and stuff, the bumpy twisties got left as they were when I was nine.

Naturally I forgot about all that and discovered a dropped stitch just as we were about to leave our stomachs behind on the first big bump.  Picking up a stitch while carsick and still bumping along?  Not recommended.

(I did get the stitch, but I didn't get my stomach back, so I'm a little short on my sock still.)

The church we were going to seats 100 plus overflow on the hill outside (actually it's a proper deck now, but I used to sit on a hill and listen through the open side door.)  When we sat down the priest looked around at everybody and asked, "Who feels like singing?" Somebody suggested a particular hymn everybody knows and after calling out the side door for agreement from the crowd on the deck, that's what we sang.  The rest of the mass was just as comfortable.  I could really get to love this cottage thing, you know?

Afterward we went to a gift and tea shop across the street - two cute places on either side of a heavily wooded and otherwise unpopulated road - and I bought a very exciting thing that I will have to tell you about later because I forgot to take a picture of it before the sun went down just now.  It's knitting though so you'll like it.

What I did take a picture of was the other thing I came home with:

Meet Flloyd.

Yes, I know Flloyd is supposed to have just one 'L'.  Flloyd is a little different.  And he appears to have just one word in his vocabulary which is 'Yum.'  My kinda bird.

Flloyd stayed with me in the afternoon - bouncing up and down with the sewing machine on a mostly stable card table I'd found behind a door - when, instead of floating in the lake, I was Very Responsible and finished the curtains for the living room.

Here is my setup, which misses showing the gorgeous afternoon I skipped and therefore the extent of my fortitude:

And here is the After and Before:

(please please tell me it was worth it because frankly after months of planning and prepping and measuring I don't think that one is so much better than the other)

And here is what shore looks like from the water, which I had time to get back into before bed because the thunderstorm that swept in just as I finished hanging all the panels swept out again after supper:


Hope your weekend was also delicious!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Five life lessons from my spinning wheel

This week I learned some new things about resilience, just from spinning yarn (and also, baking bread.)  In no particular order:

Stretch too thin, and you'll break

I'm using this time to learn to spin finer singles than before, and I'm having breakages every ten or twenty minutes, compared with the Never that comes with spinning wider singles.  When there is only a little fiber the strand is weak; when a lot is gathered together, it can take a lot of strain.

Store energy and you can stretch thin and stay strong

Even if I have only a little fiber in my thread, as long as I turn the wheel a little more before I release it, banking a lot of twist (I never forget my first spinning teacher telling us that twist is energy), the thread will hold.  I take this as a reminder that even when you're alone in what you are trying to achieve, you can make it if you support yourself well through things that energize you.

It's also worth noting that twist energy is elastic energy.  It allows the yarn to stretch out and spring back.  I think that's what stored energy does for people, too.

Rest can be more powerful than rushing

A couple of weeks ago I read an ad for a training video for spinning.  I don't remember much from that ad but a reference to some singles that had sat for years without being wound off into a skein, or plied, followed by a tip from the teacher that while energy can remain in singles like that without loss, you can ruin singles forever by aggressively plying them too soon after spinning them in the first place. 

I took this to heart when I was spinning my last set of singles, and resisted plying right away.  I want to let them rest, just to be sure.

This week I didn't just spin, I prepped a lot of bread dough and baked it.  Watching the dough rise just from the air it produced while resting was a strong reinforcement of how important rest is to going the distance.  It's not easy for me to remember to take breaks, and when I do I usually feel guilty about it, so I'm taking note of this in a big way.

It's okay to let go of what doesn't work for you

Sometimes when you're spinning you come upon a little clump of fiber... maybe it got gnarled up in the dyeing process, maybe it didn't get combed out early on, who knows.  It's there, and if you spin it into your thread it's going to stay a clump.  Sometimes if you take a moment you can tease it out straighter, but for the most part, it's never going to become a functioning part of your yarn.  And the overall quality of your yarn will improve if you just yank it out and set it aside.

I think the application to life is pretty clear here, whether the clump is in your feelings or in the clutter around you, or anything in between.  It's okay to let go!  Maybe it will have another use for somebody or something else.  (those little fiber clumps are probably great for birds' nests, don't you think?)

You can bank more energy if you take your time

Sometimes I look at the clock and think I should be doing something other than spinning right now, and I start feeding more fiber onto the spindle faster than I had been.  Before that, I will have been taking it slow, holding on to that section of fiber and letting a little more twist go into it before I send it on its way.  You can really tell the difference later; some of the twist in the slow-spun section will seep over into the fast-spun part, but not enough to even if out.  The stuff that got rushed through just isn't as strong.

Moving slowly always strikes me as a way to preserve what energy I have, and making that choice feels a bit like weakness.  Maybe that's not the way to look at it though. Maybe moving slowly allows you to take more in - more ideas, more beauty, more inspiration, more value.  Maybe it just makes you stronger.

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone, and thanks for spending this week with me!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

I've been spinning some wool

Remember I had that crazy idea to spin the wool I'm going to use next month for knitting along with the Olympics?  Well, I finished my test run.

One nice thing about not pursuing Tour de Fleece in a formal way this year is that I was able to take my rest days on different days than the actual Tour cyclists are taking them - I have time available on those days, and I didn't last weekend, so I'm just going to make up the time later. 

Another thing I'll do to fit all this in is spin more on some days in case there's another I just can't - even though the point, for me, is to spin every day so that I improve my skills, I'm also going to be happy if I can just get through some stashed fiber.  Ideally I'll end up with one of these 35-45g balls of spun fiber for every day of the tour... but I'm probably not going to count.  Yep, being relaxed about production: this is what passes for vacation around here.

I have soooo much fiber from Stoddart Family Farm, and so much sock yarn such that I am knitting a Romney/Mohair sock at all times - that's a lot of work with just one type of fiber combo.  (and that's a sentence that tells you what a long way we've come from being lucky to get to work with 100% wool at all.)

Fortunately now that I'm done with the ocean blues, I have these gorgeous golden browns to look at:

This is the yarn I hope to use during the Olympics and not a second test run, so I hope I don't mess up.  What I found in the solitary test run is that I'm spinning fine enough singles to get to sock weight if I ply two singles together; because the pattern I want to use suggests sport weight, I've broken the golden brown roving into six for a three-ply approach.  I should have held out for plying and blocking the blues before making this decision but... but but but but:  impatient. 

Also nervous about time. 

Also pretty confident there isn't going to be much opportunity to get the swift out to wind plied yarn for blocking more than once, at the end of the Tour.

Just kinda thinking that, worst case, the yarn won't work and I'll use some sport weight from my stash. 

Super hugely being relaxed about this even though it goes against the grain.

Because I decided I'm on vacation, as far as I can manage it, which is only about as far as this.

Hope you find some vacation moments in your day too!