Sunday, September 30, 2012

Feel-better tips for creative folk

You will probably not be surprised to learn that, although I am pretty successful at resetting myself however briefly to 'chirpy', I'm feeling pretty crummy these days.  Let's face it: it's no fun to lose your mum.  But there are lots of things in life that aren't fun, unlike the clever things we find to compensate for them.

Here are the tricks I tried over the past couple of days - next time you feel miserable or just plain bored, maybe one of them will help you out.  

1/ I watched the spoof western Support Your Local Sheriff and put in about 8 rounds on a sock.  Then I realized I'd done a superfluous yarn over on the last round before I started those 8, so I unpicked the stitches one by one for all 8 rows plus another half I didn't notice till too late.  And: I didn't care.

DK weight cashmere-blend yarn, people.  The best friend of the emotionally needy.

2/ I revisited a tutorial on how to use an Ashford Knitter's Loom.

It was nice.  I really like the music and how down to earth Kate is.  I also took my Knitter's Loom out of its bag and looked at it.  And then I put it back again.  Even though I've owned this loom since May and have been longing to find time to play with it, it felt too much like work.  I figured that was  a sign it wasn't going to help just now.

3/ I watched the next video recommended by YouTube, even though I don't speak or comprehend the language.

I love this clever use of buttons.  And the rest of this artist's work, which is all posted on her site, is also fab.  You don't need the language to figure out how to make this bracelet, but it was enough for me just to watch it being done so I stopped there.

4/ Instead, I cleared everything Not Autumn out of my closet and played with ideas for wearing my new not-handknit socks:

Not pictured: the short, felted wool skirt that goes with this combo.  Later I went shopping to fill in the gaps exposed by the loss of all those out of season things.  I've come home with a black pair of skinny jeans with a sort of snakeskin sheen I don't know whether I can carry off, but hey: it's new and different.  New and different is a good idea right now.  Clear uncluttered spaces are also a good idea.  It's a win-win.

4/  Continuing on the decluttering track, I wound some skeins of yarn I spun in July into cakes ...

and then a skein of Stoddart romney/mohair fingering I got in April ...

and when I was putting them safely into moth-deterring bags I noticed this nice fiber I spun a while back ...

and thought about knitting with it Right Now.  But I didn't do it.  That wasn't really what I wanted either - I was just grateful to have more neglected work out of the way.

5/ When I realized I have no excuse not to spend the hour between appointments I have tomorrow on either side of a much-neglected-by-me gym, I finally did something about the fact that I don't use the amazingly effective elliptical trainer there because it bores me clear out of my mind and, frankly, cooking shows on mute aren't much help.

Yes: I charged my very old iPod and bought an audiobook for it.

I wasn't too worried about which audiobook - when I started my break from writing fiction I started another from reading fiction, so most things are new to me now - but then I remembered loving the way the words are assembled in The Graveyard Book.  So I bought Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere.  Which is read by Neil Gaiman, apparently over the course of twelve hours.  If I make myself stick to listening to it only while on the elliptical machine twelve hours has got to be good for something, don't you think?

(seems a bit unjust on Neil Gaiman, doesn't it - not only writing the book, but then having to record his reading of the entirety of it.  I've listened to a bit of it already though and I must say I'm grateful for his commitment.)

6/ While I was clearing up the closet I found some roving I got in a Twisted Fiber Art Club, called 'Festive'.  Just what I needed.  After thinking about it overnight I decided to go ahead and divide it into sections, which would not in itself commit me to spinning it right away ...

... but it turned out this was something I did want to do, so as I write this I've just finishing spinning all the singles.  I'll show you pictures later in the week because they are so pretty and it's too dark now for my camera to work any magic at all.

I feel a lot better tonight than I did on Friday night when I started all this.  It was good to get closure on a few things, and move a few things into their next stage.  Nice to exert some control over my surroundings.  Nice to eat carrot cake in between ideas.

I wonder what I'll do tomorrow?

I know what I hope you'll do tomorrow: something that makes you happy.  See you then!

Friday, September 28, 2012

The A to the Q: is there enough yarn?

While watching The Big Sleep for the 8 millionth time Wednesday night,

I Finished A Sock.

(by which I mean, I not only finished off a toe, but immediately grafted the toe shut and ran in all the ends.  progress?)

It's this made-up-by-me sock, the one I have so loved knitting but was getting pretty close to running out of yarn for such that I wasn't sure whether I'd make it.

Wondering how that came out?

Yeah, I had to stash-dive.  The pink toe has some blue-grey in it though, so it comes pretty close to matching in colour as well as weight.  Also: it's mostly alpaca, so it's just as soft and luscious as the cashmere blend rest-of-sock (Yummy, from Twisted Fiber Art).  I'm content.  Or will be, when I finish sock number two and get to wear the pair.

* * * * *

In other news, I acquired more store-bought socks yesterday,

and decided that these shoes are really too big for wearing thin-knit socks or tights.  Does that mean I get to go shoe shopping?

Also: I developed a serious case of house envy after visiting Sophia in her new place.  She's been looking longer and more seriously for a new house than I have, so I am happy for her, really.

It's just that DANG, I would have loved a shot at this one.  Never mind the sweet back yard or sun-drenched attic space, I could have separate rooms for my loom (which still isn't even open here), my sewing machine, my fabric storage, and my knitting nest.  And still have a couple of bedrooms.  It is to weep.

Didn't help that after I was gone, she apparently moved some furniture into an arrangement I suggested while I was there, and is going to keep it that way.  Because I needed to know that the house and I speak to each other, le sigh.

So instead of knitting today, I appear to be spending my down time hunting up real estate listings.  I won't do anything about them because I love my tiny little house really.  I just, you know, love my yarn and fabric stash too.

(maybe I should renovate instead?)

Caramel update: I'm not sharing the link to those things a second time or even mentioning which post this week featured them in the first place.  They are delicious but deadly difficult to resist, so only buy some if you plan to be surrounded by other caramel-loving hungry people when you open the bag.  Trust me.

Have a fabulous weekend, and make something you love! even if it's only a cosy space for a really good nap.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Not-by-hand knit socks

Since I started knitting socks I've been wearing the same uniform every winter:  a black or grey long-sleeved T, a tunic dress of some kind over black leggings, and boots with (you guessed it) handknit socks in them.  That looks pretty ageless but in the shoulder seasons I substitute a pair of Mary Jane shoes for the boots and that, my friends, is a little choppier.  As in, I could pull it off if I were 10 or 20 years younger but right now? starting to get iffy.

So this year, as the weather is turning, I am thinking about Longer Socks for the days when iffy is not a good plan.  My theory: lengthening the line of pattern on my leg instead of chopping if off mid-calf is a more polished solution, assuming you can consider a tunic over leggings to be polished. 

I did think about knitting kneesocks, I'm not gonna lie.  And I may actually do it, but if I was gonna start now I would have my first pair of kneesocks ready to go around May 2013, so I got myself to a local discount department store instead.

What I had in mind: plain wool socks in black.

What I found and bought: not that.

and then

because I couldn't choose.

Some of these socks are 'over the knee', which is fashion talk for 'OWIE'.  It is not comfortable having ribbing that tight clamped over your knees and I don't care if they're going to stay up, I don't want them to stay up if they hurt that much.  I will be folding those babies over.

And some of these socks - I'm looking at you patterned guys - make my legs resemble tree trunks, which is not the look I was going for even though I have always had pretty skinny legs and spent many an hour in my youth staring at my calves and willing them to amount to something.  In my current mode I am saying Not so much, mr. storebought socks.

Amazingly, a few hours after starting to say this I noticed Emily had published something new to her blog, and it was about... seriously, knee length socks you can buy.  Good knee length socks, in solid colours, in alpaca.  (In England, with all the shipping and duty charges that involves, but still).  And they are dreamy.

Thankfully even without ordering socks from England, which may yet happen, all is not lost.  There are two positives to my shopping expedition:

1/ I can still wear the socks under the regulation black tights, and I will have the bonus of no freezing-cold gap between the tights hem and the sock cuff.

2/ I found these cool tights hanging beside the socks:

The ones on the right with the colourblocking?  The red stripe crosses over your knees.  The mad-stripeys?  I'm wearing them right now with a mushroom-coloured linen jumper, SO cute. Both pairs are super comfy and look just that little bit more grown up.

But not much more grown up.  I don't want to be getting up to any false advertising, you know?

Have a great day, you guys!  And come back tomorrow for the illustrated answer to the question I posed earlier in the week (which was: will my sock yarn run out before my sock does?)  I just know you're on the edge of your seat over that one.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Copenhagen Hat revisited, and other stories

Yesterday I had a nice e-mail conversation with Kate, during which I was reminded that I never put up a link in the Pattern Shop tab for the Copenhagen Hat...

... (in case you needed a visual refresher as to which one that is) to the Interweave Knits site for download.  It's on sale at the moment, in case you're looking for a new fall hat to knit.  And the link is now in the Pattern Shop tab too.  Thanks Kate!

* * * * *

Skip ahead a section or two if you like your Hugs light, because I want to share two other things that came out of that exchange.

First up:  me reflecting on the stories behind every one of my patterns.  Most of my designs are wrapped up in some huge event or other because there is always so much going on, but there are a few stories that are pretty darn slight. 

In the case of the Copenhagen Hat, I usually consider the backstory to be just a whisper: I am pretty sure I was playing around with purl stripes in a hat when a call for submissions landed in my Inbox from Interweave and I put together a proposal which was accepted.

But on further thought I realized that is not the story at all.  When I look at the magazine photos of that hat, what I actually see is the draft I made for myself before the magazine's yarn arrived.  The green hat that I'm wearing in the picture here.  A lot of that hat, including the many many frogs and reknittings it took to get it exactly right, happened on the bus going to and from the residence where my mum lived during the last 18 months of her life. 

Her move to the retirement residence wasn't entirely happy - she had hoped to stay in her condo till she had to be carried out - but on the upside, it allowed her to make the best of her health situation.  At the residence she was able to retain a lot of independence and improve her social life - never mind all the concerts she got to hear (mum loved music and especially piano), for nearly a year she had all her meals with a good friend from her old neighbourhood, and in the last two weeks another old friend joined them.  Apparently there was a lot of laughing at that table, and a lot of late suppers as they lingered and chatted. 

For me, the upside was that she was just enough closer to me that I could see her for a morning visit for the cost of a subway token and not so much time lost as to make it impossible.  In the first few months I went a lot, and I distinctly remember showing her how that hat was coming along.  I even knit some of it while we caught up. 

When I think about mum's death I wish I'd been less busy over the past year so I could have spent more time with her toward the end.  I did go every week, and I called whenever I could - actually, I called more often than I caught her, because she was often out doing something - but it didn't feel like enough.  Being reminded about the Copenhagen Hat reminded me that actually, I did spend a lot of time with her.  And I have the hat to prove it.

So thank you again, Kate.

* * * * *

The last thing Kate gave me was a heads up for Yarn Soup, a Dubuque haven for yarn, which MAN I wish I could visit.  It looks fantastic.  Because it's a bit of a distance for me I settled for reading through the store's blog where I stumbled across such an amazing life insight: that love wants to create.

Think about it.  You have to have a huge commitment to make something.  Whether it's essential to your survival or a luxury for a one-off event, it takes effort, unlike, say, lying on the sofa.  It's just logical that there is some deeper motivation than just whim.

Now, some of us make stuff for people we love, and that's an obvious illustration.  Love makes us want to nurture the people we feel that for.  That particular blog post - really, I encourage you to click the link and read the original because Sara says it better than I do - is about making things for charity which is another way of showing love, in the form of compassion.

But it struck me after reading that blog that the effort to make really comes from loving ourselves.  If you don't love yourself at all, you don't have any currency to recognize the difference you can make by showing your love for somebody else - so why bother? 

The thing I like about that idea is that a lot of us don't love ourselves all the time.  We're quicker to curse our stupidity than to congratulate ourselves when we avoid doing something stupid.  But even if we don't love ourselves most of the time: making stuff proves we have at least a little love in there for the people we are.

And I think that is pretty awesome, don't you?

* * * * *

Speaking of love and making and - let's be honest - getting a little more purely grabby here - when I was at Bob's on Saturday touring his house and delivering the socks I made him, I admired two pottery jugs on his kitchen counter.  They were gorgeous, and I mean but gorgeous - simple perfect lines, no embellishment beyond slight ridges left by the potter's hands. 

Turns out Bob made them.

I'm just sayin'... and by that I mean I'm really just sayin', because Bob doesn't read Hugs... I would love it if he showed his love for me by creating another pair of those things and bringing them to my house.  I would make room for them.  And that isn't just sayin', because it would mean parting with yarn.

* * * * *

And now to end on a sweet note, pretty much literally:  I went to the Posh Grocer's today and had a personal victory followed by a personal Oops. 

The victory is that I went to the Posh Grocer's.  I won't bore you with all the reasons that was a big deal but I will tell you that I'm trying to drive more, in trying conditions I would normally avoid like plague, so as to break down my fear of driving and, you know, other stuff like getting on planes that are about to take off.

So: not only did I get to the Posh Grocer's and park in the parking lot instead of a block away where it's easy to avoid all the trucks, I was able to pick up something Jill wanted at the same time.  Jill has done a lot of nice things for me, including driving me over to the Posh Grocer's at a time of day I would never, ever have attempted it, so it just felt amazing to be for ten minutes a competent grownup person who drove through insane amounts of construction amid oncoming traffic to park in a small lot and do a little favour for a friend at the same time.  Go me!

and... then I got to the checkout and the cashier noticed me eyeing Something and let me know that yes, in fact, the Bequet caramels are amazing and I should really try them.  I'm not going to take a picture of the cute bag, mostly because it's pretty much decimated at this point.  But I will add a link to the site for the maker.  (I got the green-wrapped ones, caramel with celtic sea salt.  MAN.)

And that is me for today.  I'm going to go see how far my sock yarn is going to go and I will see you, I hope, tomorrow.  Till then, take care! and be glad you can make stuff because it says so much about you, and all of it good.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Cliffhanger: is there ever enough sock yarn?

A nice thing about a long car trip is the potential for a lot of knitting time (assuming you're not the driver, though I know that doesn't always stop people.)  I always look forward to the 5-hour trip to Ottawa for that reason and was very excited to get a lot of work done on my cashmere-blend lace socks on the way to my cousin's wedding last weekend:

I haven't worked on these since the spring, but I remember being completely smitten with them - the combination of needles, yarn, and the stitch pattern I paired with my base sock design were just dreamy.  It was time to pick them up again and I wasn't disappointed: they are still awesome.

What I forgot to take into consideration is that the sun sets early these days.  The last couple of hours, it was too dark to knit, and so foggy outside that Certain Drivers weren't keen on the interior light being on so that Certain Passengers could finish a sock heel.

I did try though.  I dropped some stitches, messed up the short rows, and messed up generally before I gave it up as a bad job.  Then I thought about chewing my arm off.  Long car trips are so boring without knitting!

After a while I told a Certain Driver that a really good present for me would be one of those lightweight flashlights you hang around your neck and position to focus a beam of light on your knitting.  It's probably still to much interior light for night driving but I'm sure I would find many other opportunities to use it.

Anyway I did make progress on the sock as you can see.  The design: not so easy to see unless something is inside the sock to stretch it out a bit.


And that leaves me with just one small(ish) problem:

I'm running out of yarn.  Again.

I'm sure there is something in my stash I can use to finish off this foot, but I am really hoping I can make it through to the toe before I have to switch.  Maybe then it will look Meant.  Stay tuned! With luck, I'll be able to tell you in a few days how it all came out.

Till then: have a great day with my best wishes for sneaking something crafty into it!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Handknit sock delivery

Over the weekend Pete and I drove to Ottawa for my cousin's wedding - which was hands down one of the nicest I've ever attended - and although we weren't able to sneak in a visit with Karen (I'm sorry Karen, that's three visits now that were just too short!) we did get to drop in at Bob's to deliver his socks. 

I wrapped them up the prettiest way I knew how:

Mostly I reached for the first bit of yarn surplus I could find - I usually take the cut pieces from when I run in ends and put them into a cup for tying up parcels later - but then I realized this was yarn from my twined mitts, aka the ones I forced myself to finish right after mum died, and here I was using it to wrap up the socks I started for Bob when he told me his mom's illness was terminal.   Don't know whether I've mentioned this but Bob's been my best friend since I was about a year old, and we grew up in each other's houses being fed snacks by each other's moms, so the wrapping felt Right.

Unwrapped, the socks proved to look perfect in their natural environment:

And Bob was very meticulous about not walking over his vast expanses of hardwood flooring in them, to maintain their stitch integrity.  Gotta love knitting for somebody like that!  Maybe I should knit him another pair.  (maybe that's what he had in mind?)

It was good to see Bob in that house again because he's selling it.  It's an enormous place - my house could fit into part of one floor - and he spent ages fixing it up only to find that (surprise!) it's really too big.  I had a few great tours in the earlier years when the renovations were all-consuming, but I hadn't had one since it was done.  Sad to have a new tour on what will likely be my last visit.

Also sad that the one room I still think is my dream room - up under the eaves with nostalgic floral wallpaper and a nook for a sofa - is still the same, aka at least twice the size of my actual room.  GAH.  That house is just crazy big.  It would be perfect for a crafty person like me, don't you think? 

Not buying it though; it's too far to commute to the bakery I like here in Toronto.

I have lots of other little bits of news to share this week, and pictures too if I remember to take them.  Hope to see you again tomorrow!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Delicious orange socks (that are too short)

Today while I was fussing with a knotty problem and other administrative tasks and - yes, the last of the course I wanted to finish today, YAY - I heard a


at the front door.

Oh Boy! I thought: Twisted Fiber Art! which was unrealistic since my first shipment of club yarn isn't due for a while.  But less unrealistic than my first shipment of club yarn from Biscotte, since I once again missed the deadline for that.

I made myself keep working on the problem and the course and the admin - front door investigation as carrot - but by the time I got there to check for a parcel I remembered that I had ordered more of these:

Definitely not yarny, though a good reminder of my need for bamboo-based sock yarn.

(I don't know if you're the sort of person who bothers with makeup, but I tried some of these bamboo-based makeup remover/cleanser things when I went up to visit my uncle at the then-his cottage so as to not tie up the sole bathroom with eye makeup removal, and deemed them awesome.  When I ran out of that first supply and couldn't replace it I tried a few different brands of the same idea at the drugstore and Ew.  Too scratchy, too smelly! The Kaia ones are the best.  I found another retailer for them online and have been happily ordering them ever since.  You can even buy them in a travel size, individually wrapped.  Highly recommended.)

The day kind of went crazypants from there with over-scheduling, and also a lot of staring going on between me and the now-messy orange socks.

I want to eat them up, they are so orange and delicious-looking, in spite of all those porcupine needles sticking out.  But there is a problem.

They are too short.

I started the toe too soon in spite of starting the toe at the exact same point I always start the toe for this weight of this yarn on these needles.

The staring I mentioned?  It was me, trying to figure out how this is possible, with intervals of measuring and comparing to existing socks.

In the end I decided I will just have to accept that they are too short, rip back to the start of the toes, and knit a few more rounds.  But that would require guessing how many rounds to knit, and by the time I made that decision I was tired after all the staring, and now (even though they are still sitting at the side of my desk staring back at me) it is time to go put a bamboo eye makeup remover cloth to good use.

So: tomorrow.  Or not, because I am pretty sure I have more crazypants scheduling for Friday and Saturday and part of Sunday and I should probably not rush in to the toe adjustment with an overcrowded brain.

Either way, it looks like I will have to skip Friday's exciting Hugs commentary.  If anything fabulous happens, I will totally pop in on Saturday to tell you all about it; if not, I'll see you Monday, and I hope you have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The height of comfort and elegance

Bob's here:

and his socks fit.

The needles in the toes and all the little loops of yarn hanging down waiting to be run in took some explaining, but apart from those hazards, he loves them.

What I love:

the texture of the fabric.  You really get such comfy socks out of Stoddart yarn.

And now: time to graft.  Or knit orange socks.  Probably the latter if I'm honest.

Have a good night, folks!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Ten Things: rainy day knitting

My knitting brain is bouncing all over the place so I've decided to give you a mashup of crafty thoughts chez Hugs:

1. I browsed through some fall fashion pictures yesterday and I thought my head would explode from all the design ideas unfolding in there.  I lost count of all the Lookit This! notes I sent to Trish.  One fashion picture we agreed was Just Silly: a dark-coloured cardi with a smaller, brighter, but otherwise identical cardi shape sewn over top, by way of making the model appear even tinier.

2. Trish also popped by with some knitting tool news the details of which I'm not going to share but maybe she will, in the comments.  Suffice it to say my face is a bit green today and not from nausea.

3. I've been wearing the little Turkish Bed Slippers I knit for mum.  They don't make me feel better, but my feet are warm, so there's that.

4. Because there is a handknit hat (alpaca with shiny stuff) involved, I watched a video of Amanda Seyfried appearing on Ellen:

in which Amanda says she knits on her elliptical trainer.  Is this possible??? Will my gym kick me out if I try it??? Because if I go to Italy without getting my super-industrial-grade walking legs back in gear, I am going to have to pre-book chiropractors or massage therapists in every city I visit.  Yet I have no wish to give up knitting time.  You can see my dilemma.

5. I am completely, utterly, and totally besotted with the orange mohair socks I started striping the other day.  I want them to be done so I can wear them but who am I kidding? I may never graft the toes shut.

6. Why am I not grafting any of these toes shut?  Seriously, I am starting to think there must be some deep emotional meaning to my not finishing all those almost-finished objects.  Like, I'm not ready to let go of anything right now.  Or maybe I am just obsessed with working my way through the pile of mohair stuff I bought in May as quickly as possible, without taking time to run in ends, so as to conquer something. 

7. Though I am definitely obsessed with working my way through the mohair sock yarn, I have also realized I will need not too hot, quick-dry socks for springtime in Italy and that probably means bamboo.  I am pretty sure I have no bamboo sock yarn.  Maybe this means I can go shopping even though I didn't work through all my mohair stash, because hello, it takes me a month to finish finer-weight socks and I should probably have more than three pairs in rotation.

8. Bob is coming over tomorrow so I finished his socks last night.  HA.  Yeah, Trish may have a cool new knitting tool, but she's also got a whole sock left to knit in the very same very plain yarn as the Bobsocks.  Actually I shouldn't gloat because if he tries them on and they're still the wrong length I will have to rip back two sets of toes to fix them.  Won't have to unpick any grafting though, heh.  (are you surprised?)

9. I am going to a wedding this weekend for which I was partially prepared several months ago, then made another bit of progress on about three weeks ago, and for which I am now entirely stalled.  I need to decide on the other part of a partial present.  Wouldn't it be nice if I had a loom I knew how to use so I could make a very special table runner or something?  I think I have to go non-crafty this time around.  Though a trio of mittens with the middle mitten set up for hand-holding would be awfully cute.

10.  There's one more course (realistically, there is always one more course, but this is the one right now) I was supposed to have done for the new job and I've been putting it off because I just wanted so badly to sit and knit for a few more hours.  I started today and guess what?  Turns out it requires me to sit in a comfy chair near the computer, knitting and listening and reading and occasionally clicking to the next screen.  I can so be done this thing by the end of Thursday.  But I'm not going to hold up the knitting till then because YAY, it's been my orange stripey socks.

Okay: that's me, and now I will bounce off and get on to the next thing.  I hope you are all having a fabulous day even if (or do I mean because?) you, like me, are looking out at a whole mess of rain.  Love love love rainy days for knitting!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Knitting (or crocheting) without tools

There are a lot of things I would change about myself but one thing I really like is that I am a problem solver.  Admittedly, most of the problems I face come up because of the rest of the person I am, so if I could just fix up the other stuff I wouldn't have to be a problem solver, but still.  Lucky I am so tenacious about fixing things, instead of just living with them as they are, right?

The current big problem is that I am planning to visit Italy in the spring.  I know, I know, Italy! how lucky I am to be in a position to go to Italy.  Yes.  Except I will have to fly there, after not flying for about 15 years because I got so frantically nervous on a plane I couldn't face getting on one ever again.

Fortunately, this is a problem I can (and will) tackle from many different angles.  One of them, naturally, is to bring really good, super calming and distracting knitting on the plane.  Except... it's an international flight, and the rules aren't fixed for what sorts of sharp metal needles you can bring on flights into different countries. 

At first I thought I would just bring easily replaceable needles and yarn so if my stuff was confiscated at customs I'd be 'okay'.  Then I read about some people being separated from their fellow travelers (in my case, they are more accurately called 'security blankets') in the case of such confiscations.  That would make me freak out before I even got onto the plane.

Also, I would be left without my calming, distracting knitting en route.

So over the weekend, I looked up some YouTube videos on how to knit with your fingers, so as to avoid needles altogether.  The clearest one was this:

You will notice though, there's really no way to have more than 4 stitches.  Plus, your fingers are all tangled up.  If I suddenly needed to do something for safety reasons, I'd be a mess both literally and figuratively.

The latter objection is sadly true for this variation as well, in which you knit using your arms:

Plus, it's super quick - not practical for my purposes - and your arms are always tied up.  Cool though!  I'd like to try this one just for everyday life.

Then I spotted a video for a knitting fork, which is made of wood and possibly not pointy enough to be confiscated:

Sadly, all you can make is a cord.  I just don't think that's enough to keep me quiet through turbulence.

So I gave up and looked at some videos about crocheting with your fingers.  BINGO:

These are the clearest ones - they show not just the technique, but the fact that you're never really tied up in the yarn - and if you need more convincing the possibilities really light up when you watch this:

Translate the bulky acrylic blankie to a lacy silk/merino stole and: yeah.  This is the fix.

True, I don't actually know how to crochet.  But I've got a few months, and I'm a motivated student.  I'll figure it out. 

Hope you figure out a great Monday.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Trial and error: striped knitting edition

The other night I finished off a pair of socks - except for grafting the toes shut, naturally - half an hour short of bedtime and within five minutes I had dug out my bag of Stoddart romney/mohair yarn to cast on the next pair. 

(I am starting to get the message that my job right now is to burn through as much stash as simply and quickly as possible, so I'm trying not to fight it any more even though it does seem pretty crazy to be knitting sock after sock without so much as a neckwarmer to break up the routine a bit.)

Now, I was kind of excited about getting out a fresh colour because, as I mentioned in passing a few days ago, I recently found a bag of yarn that had gone missing, and which had in it some yarn I particularly wanted on the needles.  I keep seeing pictures of it in my Stash page at Ravelry, and in my photo folder on my computer, and then remembering how I pounced on it when I saw it on Silvia's booth table because I loved it so much.  I just couldn't find it in the real stash.

The trouble is, yarn can look very different in a skein than it does in a cake, and even once I found that bag I couldn't recognize the actual yarn.  It reminded me of a pumpkin when I saw it first - a lot of orange, with hits of green.

Was it this one?

Or this one?

I was pretty sure it was the more-orange option, so I cast on and got about this far by staying up too late (Bad Mary.)

But when I went back to it yesterday - my day off, which I'd set aside to graft sock toes - it just didn't look right to me.  I opened up the once-missing bag and wondered about that second colour and also the other colours in there.  Then I spotted remnants from my first-love yarn hiding behind some other cakes.

Don't they look great together?

I mean, striped?

Oh yeah.  That's what I had in mind.  Nothing too emphatic, just a little weight to ground out that orange.

Sometimes you just have to fuss a little with a project, even if it does mean putting toe-grafting off for yet another day.  Now my biggest problem is deciding whether the yarn reminds me more of carrots or pumpkins.  Or maybe a meadow of pinky-orange blooms?

With luck I'll figure that out over the weekend.  Maybe I'll even have a new set of toes I'm not grafting shut by the time I see you again Monday.  Have a great couple of days, and be good to yourself!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Finished projects, in lieu of finished objects

I was reminded yesterday how much easier it is to dwell on areas where we have failed than on areas where we have succeeded, which is why today I am not going to mention (apart from this one mention) the many many sock toes I have not grafted shut or ends I have not run in.  Even though it is really bugging me that I have done all that work and then stopped short.

Instead: I'm going to show you some other stuff I did finish.

Behold, the six-hour retro car curtains that took me six weeks to pull off, owing in part to not having lining fabric before that:

Yeah, I know, it's a totally uninspiring photograph.  Even though the cottage is a really nice place to be, it's hard to capture that digitally.  Still, if you'd seen the 'before' - sensible and efficient woven polyester drapes that match the light brown exterior of the building, in situ and unblemished after 40 years of use - you would have a clearer understanding of the


in my heart looking even at this meh picture.

Another summer project was the chair I fixed up the weekend after my mum died, which felt rather urgent under the circumstances.  See, the chair had belonged to my mum's dad.  Her sister even remembers him sitting in it at the dinner table, tired after a very long day during the Depression.  (he was a carpenter.  they weren't much in demand at the time. also, he was probably beginning to be ill then - he died young, making my aunt's memory even more precious.) 

My uncle was keeping it at the cottage, summertime providing the greatest opportunity to refinish it.  Cottage life being what it is though, the chair didn't get very far along.  Here's what it looked like when I first saw it last summer:

The wood is cracked in places now, so I'm not sure there's much point in trying to make it really beautiful with fresh stain and so forth, and I also felt it should really get back into circulation fast, so I decided just to sand off the rough parts and any remaining loose paint, then rub salad bowl oil into the wood. 

When all that was dry I threw a cushion onto the seat, one I'd made for a different chair (another finished project!) but which looks pretty good here:

It's not glam, but I think it's got character, don't you?

(I'm not entirely sure about how comfortable it is, but I don't think that really matters at this point.)

Anyway my tips from these two projects are:

1/ if you can't choose between two patterned fabrics for curtains, go for the one that has a regular repeating horizontal line.  SO much easier to get right the first time than a floral that goes wild, and yes, I'm looking at you, cottage living room curtains.

2/ if you want to protect raw wood and don't feel like doing a chemically or toxic stain thing, Circa 1850 Terra Nova NaturOil is pretty awesome . Did you see how much darker the wood got there?  and it dried in no time.  Isn't even greasy.

3/ don't beat yourself up for the stuff you didn't do! focus on what you did do.  you'll feel better and maybe even have some unexpected energy.  for, you know, doing the stuff you didn't get done yet.

Have a great day guys, see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Five essentials for a knitter's handbag

(I'd just like to say up front that for the purposes of this post, purse = bag or handbag = possibly also what my American friends sometimes call a 'pocket book'.  I have never been quite clear about whether pocketbook means what I would call a wallet, or what I would put my wallet into, along with all the other stuff I cart around in my purse.  Or bag.  Or handbag, if it's the kind of pursey bag that only comes with short straps.  Are we good to go?)

I don't know about you guys but I seem to spend a lot of time looking for 'the perfect bag'.  Have done for years and years.  Still don't have one.  I've paid $200 and I've paid $20 and I can't figure out why every time I go bag shopping I am surrounded by a dozen other women all with the same expression on their faces: "how can so many designers be making bags, and not one of them gets it right??"

Obviously, some of them do get it right, for some of the people who buy bags, but I am a knitter, and I range between walking and driving and using public transit at busy times of the day, so I have Needs.

Top Five Essentials for Bag Content

I need a bag that will allow me to carry the following, plus one or two fold-up fabric shopping bags and maybe a compact umbrella:

1. My house and car keys, where I can get at them quickly but not mix them up, in either a zippered section so they don't fall out or a clip section so they don't fall down amongst the other debris in there.

2. My cell phone, which I need to be able to get at quickly and Hello! hear ringing?, but stash in a secure area from which it can't drop to the ground.

3. My wallet and changepurse, in a zippered area buried out of easy pickpocketing range

4. Tissues for sneezes, and any other small toiletries or headache fixes I am going to need NOW, which is invariably in the moment I do not have access to anything useful other than my bag.

5. KNITTING.  and not just the tiniest possible amount of knitting.  if I'm excitedly knitting thick socks, I want to be able to throw them in my bag.

I have many many bags that allow me to do all this.  Actually I have one really cool one that people comment on every time I use it, even.  But they don't stand up in other ways. 

Top Five Essentials in Bag Design

Maybe I am picky, but I think these qualities are just basic for a really good bag:

1. A light weight.  The bag shouldn't be heavier than what I'm carrying in it.  And I shouldn't constantly find myself jettisoning things I will probably need just because they weigh too much.  All those metal clasps and chains designers are using now may look cool, but I am a real person racking up real mileage and I prefer to do my weightlifting at the gym.

2. Waterproof exterior.  I haven't got time to change my bag for the weather.  I know leather is gorgeous and all, but it doesn't love rain or sleet the way recycled pop bottles do.

3. The right size zipper pockets for the essentials listed above.  And not magnets! You only have to trash your credit card once from exposure to a bag's magnetic closure to steer clear of them ever after.

4. A cross-body strap.  Because you can't knit and walk if your shoulder bag is slipping down to your elbow all the time, or your hand bag is digging into your wrist.

5. SPACE.  Because knitting takes up room, and it's nice if you can also throw your mitts in there in winter when you finally get inside a store, or the small purchase you just made.

Five Pictures to Illustrate the Lists

Here is the bag I settled on for this round, after really trying hard to make a shoulder strap version work:

It's from Roots, and it's a larger variation on the standard bag all my friends seem to use as a glorified wallet (pocketbook?) at 10" x 9" x 3" deep.  It's made of some sort of vinyl so it's waterproof, and I can fit all my essentials in it in accessible places, and it's got that critical cross-body strap.

It falls down on the size front, so did have to make some compact-friendly concessions, even to the point of putting my religious medals onto the fun pin I just really want to keep in the bag:

The religious medals ensure safe passage when I'm driving.  You can read about the tornado-day when I found them, here.

Also - and this is why I am still shopping - I am only able to carry one sock at a time, even if it's an ultralight Vesper sock:

But it will work for now, until I track down something better, like maybe a purse that's supposed to double as a carry-on bag for overseas travel.  Those things tend to be pretty lightweight and cross-body-strappy, right?

Incidentally, I finally figured out how to fold up a sock and its free needle to stuff into my bag in a hurry:

I told Trish about this very proudly yesterday, and she looked like I was maybe a little slow or something but honestly, I used to just roll the loose needle up with the knitting and then it would drop and roll away when I took it out again (so awkward on a bus) or else I would confuse it with an active needle and pull a real active needle away from its stitches so I could get back to work.  Slipping the loose needle into some sock a good inch below the working needles is so much safer.

And those are my thoughts on bags.  Got any essentials of your own, or recommendations for a better solution?  Because I would love to hear 'em!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

A hand for hands, plus to-die-for mitts

I found this cool glove-dryer in the shed at the cottage this summer:

It is so perfect for me, though not because I am a successful knitter of things for hands.  I still can't face all the fingers of a glove, and as you may recall the twined mitts I knit so diligently over the summer still don't have their ends run in, plus I actually bought a pair of handknit mitts so I wouldn't have to make them myself, ahem.

Nope, it's perfect for me and I expect for any of you reading Hugs, because we use our hands for more than, say, getting bok choy into a pan for lunch.  You know, when we feel called upon to make up for eating the world's biggest cinnamon-sugar bun from the bakery for breakfast, because it was labeled 'breakfast bun', which is pretty misleading if you ask me because there didn't seem to be any additional vitamins or minerals in there.  Not even a raisin.  (And golly was it delicious.)

Look at all the great stuff we do with our hands - knit, crochet, sew, make art, admire yarn and fiber, and sometimes even spin it to boot.

The hand is inside the cottage now, hanging up on a wall.

It's a lot more reflective of me than the loon-related art there that reflects the location, and I love that my uncle not only found it in some shop but valued it enough to buy it.

* * * * *

As is probably true for you, I normally find hand-making crafty things relaxing... but yesterday it was more like work.

First I sat in on a sewing bee and spent two and a half hours on one solitary hemming job (next time I will just baste) and my hands were so sore!  Even though I did dig out a thimble eventually.  Still, good to hang out with girlfriends old and new.  And Marilou brought oatmeal raisin cookies.  Does eating those make up for there not being raisins in my 'breakfast bun' I wonder?

Later I sat in on a class for kids.  My goal in such situations is always to be unobtrusively productive and bombed because the boys just as much as the girls kept turning around, away from where they were supposed to be looking, to check out my knitting.  Which I was doing pretty slowly owing to the still-sore hands, leading to a double Fail on the double goal.  I kept dropping the knitting lower and lower into my lap but I guess the stripes were too eye-catching: whoops!  Must find something less interesting to do another time.

* * * * *

I know I said I am lousy at making covers for my hands, but I am so changing my tune for Louise's new mitts (which I am afraid do not fall into the 'less interesting' category):

They are called Diagon Alley.  There is a matching hat.  I am in love.  Also I have some of the requisite yarn. (are you surprised?) 

You can get the pattern for both with four other patterns (including my Strawberry Sundae hat!) with the purchase of two skeins of her Gobelin yarn, which I can highly recommend as a luscious knitting experience.

And now if you will excuse me, there is a couch with my name on it, plus a sock that is waiting for a toe.  See you tomorrow!

Monday, September 10, 2012

In the workbasket

As the only crafty person of my generation, I received a big bag of crochet hooks and vintage Workbasket magazines when Aunt Paula passed, lo these many years ago.  I must dig out those Workbaskets and share them here - such a great mix of projects and ideas in a nice compact little booklet.

Of course, I never had a workbasket as such, just little bags scattered wherever I might have got up from stitching away on something.  But over the weekend, getting desperate about the current outbreak of open-toed socks, I dug up a basket and put work in it:

It's not quite so bad as I thought.  Lots of ends to run in, but I did get one pair of toes grafted, and the mitts just need a bit of fancy stitching around the base of the thumb.

Still... more toes are imminent:

So I'd better get busy.  Meanwhile, I've decided to keep all the current stuff in this basket for a while, just to keep myself accountable:

No trespassing - stabby basket!  Not very inviting or inspiring, is it.  Ahhh, the tradeoffs... I have more to say about portable storage tradeoffs later this week, but for now, let's just be glad we have another day we might be able to knit or sew or make something in.  See you tomorrow!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Curtains! and other summer remnants

It's hard to remember it's 'fall' when the weather is still saying 'summer', but the calendar keeps saying September so I am trying to stay in line.  That didn't stop me from getting out the last of my summer projects so I can have closure on the whole Cottage thing for this year:

Yep, I finally managed to source lining fabric so I could make car curtains for my bedroom there.

Did I mention I had to order more of this fabric?  I got an e-mail from the shop about shipping that asked chattily whether it was for a boys' room and I said Nope! It's all mine!!  but when I was sewing the curtain panels tonight I thought Ack, maybe it really isn't grownyuppy enough.  maybe I will regret this.  maybe I will be stuck sewing even more curtains next year.

Then I came to my senses.  Because while I do like having the results of sewing, and I enjoy the ironing that makes up the bulk of sewing, and I even like playing with fabric choices and running seams through my be-yooooteeful Bernina, I do not love cutting out.

Or messing up.

I really only have this one rather awful photograph of the second-to-last curtains from the cottage redo, covering the giant picture window over the kitchen table, but it's enough to show how I sewed the curtain-hook strip too close to the top such that the rather old I-beam hardware is exposed.  I decided I like the shabby-chic of it anyway and actually, when the curtain panels are either both open or both closed, they look rather nice and even a bit French.

(project note: no pattern, just sheer-ish panels topped with tea toweling fabric cut down the middle and set lengthways.)

Anyhoo: the car curtains, like all the other prints I chose, required all sorts of matching nonsense I simply do not care to repeat.  So while it is possible that I may take down the kitchen panels to sew on new hook binding a bit lower, it is probable that I am done sewing curtains for a very long time.


What I am not done with is knitting socks, and in fact I expect to get a lot of sitting time this weekend in which to polish off another pair.  Or maybe I will make myself graft some sock toes shut because this is getting a little ridiculous, knitting four-plus pairs of socks and not running in the ends and all that finishing stuff.

Also ridiculous: how much I want to write up another knitting pattern.  I really wanted to make time for at least one this summer and there are so many things on the brink of ready, it's a shame not to push through.  Especially since I was after all able to finish all those sets of cottage curtains.

Have a marvelous weekend, all of you - whatever you end up doing with it!  See you Monday?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Knitting (and sewing) for stress reduction

I am so glad I knit.

When the temperature drops, I have warm things to wear that I knit for myself.

When I'm feeling sad, I have something cheery-uppy to do.

When I'm bored in line someplace, I have something to occupy the time.

When I'm stressed, I can turn to needles and yarn to work out my anxiety.

Hello, stripey purple socks!

(my mum's sister has been quite ill for the last two weeks.  we still don't know why, but everything scary has been ruled out and we think she's on the mend now.  WHEW.)

I was already into the solid leg of the sock when I spotted Trish's comment the other day about keeping on with the striping for the duration, so this is what I've got.  Lilac heel, lilac toe to come, and hopefully the darker purple will hold out for everything in between.

love love love knitting these socks.  The colour changes are enough to keep me racing forward, but also, the yarn is just so thick they're taking not much time at all.  No more panicking over not having warm socks to wear come winter: I'll have enough now to go a while between wash days if things get busy, as they invariably do.

I was working on the purple stripeys last Friday while waiting outside Stitch for Jocelyn to come and unlock the door for the day, but when I went inside it was to be in love with the fabric side of the store.  Last year Jocelyn sold me some fabulous heavier-than-quilting weight woven cotton from French General, which I sewed into some bags suitable for hanging on hooks:

Some plain, some with a denim base in case they should they be required to stand up on a dusty floor, some with little flaps and straps, some with drawstring tops,

and they've been great.  Every time I packed one I just felt... comforted.  The cotton itself is very buttery and drapey, and the perfect seams (thank you Mr. Bernina) feel very grownuppy, like they mean I'm well taken care of and not just by me.

(no pattern, just rectangles cut to suitable size; lining is coordinating French General quilting cotton, tabs are elastic ponytail holders, button closures are vintage, drawstrings are twill tape.)

Under the current circumstances I wanted more of this fabric, and I bought all Jocelyn had left because there wasn't much.

She also didn't have much left of this almost-matchy tea toweling:

and now she has none because I bought all of that too.  Maybe I'm being silly but I feel like all my nerves are so jingly-jangly since mum died last month, I want everything around me to be Very. Very. Calm.  And the adorable strawberry-print vintage teatoweling that decorates my kitchen?

Just seem too fussy.  Maybe it's time to update, if only to keep the strawberries for seasonal use. After all, sewing is almost as good for stress as knitting, you know?