Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Socks, wonderful (handknit) socks

I did some things on Sunday and Monday and Tuesday that were very exciting and I bet if you've been reading Hugs since the summer at least, you stand a good chance of falling over when I tell you what - so brace yourself.


I finished all the socks.

Aren't these the most beautiful grafted toes you've ever seen in your life?

Okay, not really - that rule only applies to socks you're going to get to wear, and these are Mine All Mine.  Which is just so greedy because: four pairs of socks, folks.  Four!

Which grew to five when I spent the better part of yesterday's downtime finishing off two more pairs, only one pair of which made it into the blocking bath with the four pictured here.

Well, those four, plus the pair of twined mitts.

I think I understand now why I put off the 'finishing' part of finishing all these things since I first got to procrastinating last spring... running in that many ends, and closing off any telltale holes around the picked-up stitches of a thumb, takes a lot of time that could be spent knitting the next thing.  I mean honestly: three days?

Though when you put it another way: five pairs of socks in three days!!

la la la

I call that a treat.

And today being Hallowe'en, I'd better get busy on some tricks.

Hope your Hallowe'en is full of spooky fun and delicious candy - meet you back here tomorrow with our loot!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

True confessions: I have been yarn shopping

Last week Jill told me she needed to get back to the yarn store, having run out of yarn for her first scarf (which is looking amazing by the way.)  Naturally, I said I would go with her to help her choose more.

My Secret Shame

Remember when I said the big reason I bought a loom was because I wanted to use up as much stashed yarn as possible?  Well, it turns out the stashed yarns don't pair up well enough for that, and I needed - honest! - to buy some new yarn to go with.  ahem.

Bounty from the Yarn Store

Going in, I said "today is the day I am treating myself to some Koigu."  I love the way that stuff looks with its amazing handpainted colours, but I never buy any because I'm never sure what to make with it and, even by my irresponsible standards, I find it a bit expensive.  That's mainly because of the yardage: you'd need two skeins for a pair of socks.

And in spite of my determination those objections prevailed, such that all (cough) I brought home was this:

The black one - yes, I bought black yarn - is a sport weight from Malabrigo called Arroyo and it is just as luscious as one might expect.  It's got a good amount of twist so it's springy, but it's still squashy and soft.  I'm weaving with it right now, making a scarf whose warping yarn is a sublime sea blue merino laceweight.  Pictures to come when the cloudcover breaks in a few days.

Here's what I had in mind for the wine/black/white merino Botany Lace from Aurocania:

Can you stand it?  I suspected it in the store, but now that I've got them together I can see it's definitely going to work as the warping yarn for the rose-tinted bulky blue faced leicester I spun about a year ago.

My less successful Aurocania pairing:

That's the second run of handspun I made at the same time.  Not a match.  Luckily I have a backup plan (that may or may not involve buying more Helper Yarn.)

So... what about that Koigu?

After I got home I decided that if the yardage was right, I might be able to justify buying some Koigu to pair with more economical warping yarn, thereby putting all those amazing colours into a long scarf I can play with all the time.  So I went hunting on Ravelry for the yardage...

... and then I clicked on the Projects tab for my yarn of choice to see what people make with it...

... and it turns out it's pretty much this pattern...

... for Turkish Bed Socks.

I am pretty sure I have been knitting this pattern for two years now, which makes it pretty embarrassing to discover that Koigu is actually the yarn recommended for it.


Thank goodness Jill wants to go back again this week and that Carol wants another pair of these socks for Christmas.

la la la

(and have a great day!)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Shelter Valley Cowl: a free pattern

This pattern was born of pure practicality.  I saw a cowl I liked with eyelets and a drawstring, and the yarn I wanted to use to make it didn't have the yardage I'd need, so I improvised with a different eyelet pattern and knit a less expansive cowl.

The eyelet stitch is called 'Eiffel Tower' for the pretty little towers resulting from successive rounds of knit stitches drawing closer together as they move away from the yarnover that made them.  I loved the stitch the minute I saw it but there was no way I wanted to spend that much time purling, so I decided to knit the cowl inside out.

I got pretty attached to this 'wrong side', and I think it looks pretty great in cowl form as well...

... but I couldn't help thinking the 'right side' would look pretty good on a guy.

(to double check, I asked a guy who wouldn't be caught dead in a cowl, and he liked it so much he conceded he would wear one of these... but not necessarily for a photograph, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

When I stumble across a setup like this - easy stitch, fast knit, amazing yarn, unisex style - I immediately think Gift Knitting.

So I knew I was going to roll this out to you guys as fast as I could.  But what I could not do was think of a name.

Naming designs is not as easy as you might think.  Once you've spent that much time on a thing you want its name to be perfect, which it isn't going to be if it isn't unique.  Most of the names I thought of for this cowl had been thought of many many times before by other knit designers for other knit designs, and after I while I got to thinking I should opt for Esmerelda or Radial Tire or Beaky or something.

Then I looked closer and thought you know, those little towers remind me just as much of Hydro towers as Eiffel ones.  And the reverse side looks a lot like a current in some water.  After some hydro-electric hunting (you'd be amazed how many design names draw on electricity) it struck me that there is one special place in my life where there are Hydro towers...

... and a creek with a pretty good current...

... and that is the farm in Shelter Valley.  (as proof of its farmhood, that black blob thing with 'cow' written under it in the top photo is in fact a Cow.)

There is the Hydro right of way that cuts down one side, and the trout stream that winds along another, and it's a very nice cosy-feeling place if you're not there in spring (hello: mosquito convention), and frankly, I don't think I could come up with a better name for this cowl if I tried for another week.  Which would be whole a week you could spend knitting one.  So there we are.

About the yarn, which is a yummy worsted-weight cashmere blend easily ordered online from Biscotte et Cie: I'm showing it in grey (or rather, gris-gris) because that's what I had in the house, but you can choose from a rainbow of gorgeousness.

Shelter Valley Cowl

Biscotte et Cie La Grande Douce (80% superwash merino wool, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon, 202 yards, 115g), 1 skein
4.0mm 16” circular or double point needles, or size to obtain gauge
stitch marker
darning needle
18 sts, 27 rows = 4” in stocking stitch
Finished Dimensions
19.5” circumference, 6” long 

Friday, October 26, 2012

A new autumn hat

At long last sun!  Which means I get to show you both my Twisted Fiber Art Club yarn, and the hat I made with it:

(well, mostly the hat I made with it - I didn't wait to take a picture of the yarn cake before I cast on.  it was adorable so I kinda regret that.)

That's the back view with the hat worn up past my forehead.  I can never figure out how people pull that off.  It looks so much better on everybody other than me, their hats stay on unlike mine, and I can only assume their heads are built differently so as to not freeze.  

When I wear a hat, baby it's gotta be covering as much as possible because it gets so cold outside around here.

I haven't had a chance to test this in winter temperatures, but in the first fall chill, it's pretty awesome.  And soft?  Yummoliciously so.

Yarn: Twisted Fiber Art's Queen, in the 'Autumn' club colourway for fall 2012.  Sometimes super popular colourways come into wide distribution a year after the club release, so let's cross our fingers because this one is so pretty, don't you think?

Pattern: an improvisation by me.

I am so proud of myself for using up this yarn straightaway, such that I will have needles free when the next club installment turns up.  Normally I choke when club yarns arrive: even with Biscotte ones that come with a pattern, I think I should wait to have time and/or inspiration to do them justice, or at least finish what's already on the needles.  This time around I'm aiming to keep up with the yarn no matter what.  We'll see how that goes.

* * * * *

The sunshine yesterday meant I was able to take photographs of the cute cowl I showed last week in yarn that was a gift from Trish.  This time I used a non-discontinued yarn from Biscotte in manly light grey; it's a great neutral and amazingly, it photographed well enough to show the pattern stitch.  With luck, I'll be able to write the pattern up over the weekend and get it posted here early next week for your free-pattern gift-knitting convenience.

In the meantime: have a great weekend yourself, and I'll see you back here Monday!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learning to weave: sparkle edition

Learning to weave is a lot easier than I thought it would be, but there is a learning curve about which yarn to use and how much of it the loom will want.  For example, it turns out that just because I was able to make my first very long scarf all out of one skein of yarn doesn't mean I'll always be able to do that.

(hello: yardage matters, and laceweight has a lot more than fingering.)

So here is the red scarf story.

I had this very sparkly yarn from a long-ago Biscotte club - the kind where merino gets paired with a little silver filament.  It was self-striping and beautiful and I couldn't commit to knitting with it so it kept on sitting in my yarn bin waiting for the right thing and

well, sometimes you just gotta look at weaving as the answer, so I did.

I just forgot that I might use up all the yarn on the warping part and have nothing left for the rest, which is what happened.


Now, this was at about 10:30 on a Saturday night because I know how to live.  Unfortunately that is one time of the day when one cannot run to a yarn store to pick up more yarn in the perfect shade to solve such a problem.

And it's not in my contract of 'a scarf a week till Christmas' to stop any Saturday's setting up of loom at such a point.  That left me with my stash of yarn and the hope that something in there would work.

le sigh

It was perfect, but it was also a yarn I'd been on-purpose hoarding, a solid red skein of Felix, also from Biscotte, in a shade I love soooo much.  And Felix is a base yarn that is soooo soft.  I did not want this to be the answer but

it really was.  Now I don't have enough to do red socks.  But I have quite a lot to pair with a contrast colour, and I have a great scarf*, so I guess it's good news.

Sorry I can't show you the end result: it's the lack of sun for photography thing again (I've been trying for days, trust me, it's not happening.)  But when I do get to show you, you'll understand Problem Number Two*.

Meanwhile:  have a great day!

* the problem being: how do you give away such an awesome scarf??

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What price warm legs

We're now into day two of unrelenting grey skies which means I can't show you the hat I made with the latest Twisted Fiber Art club yarn, or the second weaving project, or anything else yarny I forgot to take pictures of on a sunny day.  So instead, I am going to tell you about warm legs.

After running out to see Bob the other morning I came home to find a present in the mailbox, and since I was hepped up on decaf coffee by then I took pictures right away:


The little present unfolds into this:

It's a pair of organic wool legwarmers I bought from Woolen Moss at Etsy.  I must say I like the seam that runs down the length of them the best - gives me some choice about where I want that vertical line to go.

Finding the legwarmers in the mailbox reminded me of the boots I'd impulse purchased that morning, which - let's be frank - laugh at the legwarmers as only spaceboots can:

These things really do look awful don't they.  Cute soles though!

If only the soles showed from the front.

On the upside:
they are warm
they are waterproof
they weigh practically nothing
they won't show salt stains like every other boot I own
my orthotic insoles fit inside
so do my superthick handknit wool/mohair socks
and I live in Canada and winter is coming.


they don't look too too horrible when you pair them with a pair of slouchy merino legwarmers. 

And that's me for today.  Have a wonderful day even if it doesn't have weird looking moonboots in it!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 ways to get more knitting time

If I had my way, I'd be spending a lot more time making stuff.  Ideally, making stuff with yarn.


Maybe you get to do that whenever you like but I seem to be in a perpetual state of:

Why can't I just sit and knit????

I mean, it can't just be the whole Not Independently Wealthy thing.

And it's not like retirement is going to be the walk in the park I was promised either: every retired person I know is busier than s/he ever was.

So I think it's really important to try to maximize the downtime now, and not next month when the current deadlines are past.  There are just going to be other deadlines taking their place: I can tell, because it took me nearly five months to open a bag of Loom so I could start using up a ton of yarn, which is actually a priority activity for priority lists like housekeeping and gift giving and not moving to a bigger house, like, now.

And that my friends is why I am happy to say that in spite of an even crazier schedule than ever, I've been able to make some mental shifts and do some tricks to buy myself more than an hour a day of quality time with my yarn, even if yesterday's hour was achieved in part by knitting while walking home from the gym.

Simplifying your schedule for crafty gain

1. The house doesn't need to be that clean.  Seriously, #1 decision.  In the absence of allergies and asthma of course - unless you see ants or some even less palatable insect, or a yarn cake is going to be trailing through dust while you warp a loom with it, or somebody is coming over who might think you're living in squalor (and you care what that person thinks), you can skip vacuuming for a little longer.

2. If you are going to throw some of your time in the direction of housecleaning, invest at least of little of that in decluttering.  What's the point in dusting around shelves occupied with all manner of everything, if you're not going to have any more yarn storage space there than you did before?  Also: it's so much easier to tell yourself the house doesn't need to be that clean, if it's not also super disorganized.  Either way you gain yarn time, even if it's only looking at it more often.

3. If you're not lucky enough to get to wear easy predictable non-effort-requiring outfits every day, set out clothes the night before.  I know, you hear that in every article about simplifying the morning rush, but try this twist: set out clothes for the next three days.  Maybe it's just me, but working through the choreography demanded by errands, weather, length of day, and venues to be visited takes so much time, and it doesn't take three times longer to do it for three days than it does for one.  The result: two evenings with more crafty time in them, and up to three mornings that start with a row or two of knitting (or that just start a bit later, to accommodate the extra inch or two of knitting you stayed up late to do the night before.)  I am so in.

4. If a crafty thing is more fun in pictures and finished product than in the act of making, buy it.  Life is short, and leisure time is shorter, and every crafty project has to cover a lot of different functions including and especially: making you happy. There is a lot to be said for letting other people be happy, by buying stuff they made.  Or, to put it another way, Hello Etsy!

5. Outsource.  Which is sort of an extension of Point #4, though not specifically about crafty stuff.  In my experience, hardly anybody has both time and money, and some don't have either, but generally you're going to have a bit more of one than the other - or at any rate, a little more than strictly necessary.  If it's time that's super short, why spend on a spa when you can get the same relaxation plus a pair of mitts from knitting?  Or you could spend less and buy the knitting time via a prepared lunch.

6. Or even a prepared everything.  I used to go into the Posh Grocer's for a rare treat and think: If I just shopped here all the time, my life would be so much tidier and nicer.  Recently it occurred to me that that might actually be true so at the moment, I'm buying fresh, prepared foods from the Posh Grocer's every few days and not trying to stockpile the pantry which was getting way too crowded anyway.  There is SO much space in my 'frig now, and what is taking up space in it is stuff like this:

Mixed organic greens, grown locally, which cost about the same as I'd spend on two days' worth of chocolate and turn ordinary lettuce into something you actually look forward to eating.  Other great finds: broccoli salad that keeps for days, amazing homemade soups you don't have to open for a couple of months, and a really awesome steak and mushroom pie that freezes just fine if I don't get to it in time.

And instead of a ton of junky stuff when I get stressed, I'm having stuff that is just as cheery-uppy with a heavier dose of pampering, like this:

(that missing pecan tart was a taste test. review: delicious.)

Without a significant uptick in my grocery bill since I am
a/ eating everything I bring home
b/ finding time to keep up with the busier schedule that seems not to be going away
c/ sensing a lot more mental (and physical) space, and
d/ not making any less yarny stuff than I was before:
I am calling this strategy a Win.

(p.s., it turns out Carol is doing the same thing now, and this other guy I know said he found Posh Grocer salads in his 'frig the other day courtesy of his wife and is totally sold: the idea is clearly spreading. which is nice in this modern age of competing grocery stores because I would go broke if I were solely responsible for keeping this place open and selling things I want to eat.)

(and saying that reminds me that I am in fact spending valuable yarn money at the Posh Grocer's, in aid of spending more time with the yarn I already have.  hmmmm; how much stashed yarn do I have to go through before this is too high a price to pay? maybe that point will coincide with the point at which my schedule eases up, in which case I won't have to worry.)

7. Have a lot of projects on the go.

Some are going to be portable when others aren't, and the crafty downtime while you wait in line or sit in on a conference call or walk home from the gym really adds up.

8. Set up projects you aren't ready to start yet, too.  Last January I posted about the prep I did at my primary knitting space and man, the project bucket I set up then is still a huge timesaver.

9. Use audiobooks.  Omigosh.  I will often get caught up in trying to get through the next item on the To Do list before I let myself knit, and I almost never get time to sit down with a book, but if I'm dying to find out what's happening next in a story I will make myself sit down.  And once I've done that, picking up my needles or loom is just, well, virtuous.  Current knitting tool: Japanese Girls and Women by Alice Bacon, courtesy Librivox.  I've only listened to the first section (twice), and obviously: over 100 years out of date, but it's fascinating.

10. Commit to making everybody something handmade for the next big holiday.  There is no greater motivator than fear, or a looming deadline you can point to as the date on which you will once again clean the house, get out of sweatpants, open the steadily building pile of mail, and/or walk the dog yourself.

Hope one of these tips works for you.  And I hope they keep working for me!  See you tomorrow, and have a great day today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Breaking news: almost isn't enough in knitting

Thursday is my day off so naturally, it's always packed with errands.  But I tossed all of last Thursday's to the wind (except for the pair of boots in my hand, which I rushed to the cash desk) when I got a text message from my best friend, Bob, to say he was in town for a meeting earlier than expected and could meet me for coffee if I could be downtown in forty minutes (downtown being thirty minutes away.)

Two thoughts:

I am so lucky to have a phone now with a texting feature I actually know how to use.

I am so lucky I had rationed a coffee day for that very day.  I still consider myself to be a Not Coffee drinker, but I've always dabbled in cafe au lait and lately I've been sneaking into Starbucks to order a latte.  Decaf though, because when you're not used to the caffeine, WHOA.

Bonus luck:

I keep a sock in my purse at all times. this proved to be almost as important as keeping subway tokens in my purse at all times. 

Before the post-bus subway train went into the tunnel and cut off cell phone service I even had time for enough texts to pin down exactly where we would meet.  Yay! and then I settled down to work on my purse-sock, grateful as always to know how to knit a sock without much thought any more.

Except for...

:: cue the doom music ::

exactly how many rows I like to do before turning the heel.  

That's one thing I always have to check my notes on, so upon realizing I was close to said heel I checked said notes and saw that I had scribbled in '70 rounds for Vesper' and below that, in some other ink, (72).


I use the same notes for every pair of socks I knit and there was no way to know whether (72) referred to the current pair or some long-ago project. Plus I was knitting the second sock of the pair.  The first one looked like this already:

As in, pretty much done.  Could I risk a guess?

erm... no.  just didn't have it in me.

Since I was on round 67 at the time I reconciled myself and knit to 70 and put my yarn away, le sigh.

Moral of the story:

A sock in your purse doesn't guarantee you get to knit every time you sit down: planning counts.

Epilogue for the story:

It was 72 rounds, and I remember now I went up from 70 because I didn't count rounds often enough with Sock #1, went too far, and didn't feel like ripping back.

Sock #2 recovered from the hitch and looks like this now.  And you know what?  Because this is my out-in-public knitting I've discovered that everybody else thinks this is as nice a colour combo as I do.  It'll be really, really nice to get to wear them.  Think I should start keeping them home, so I finish them sooner?

Friday, October 19, 2012

The mulberry silk cowl: a finished knit

I couldn't make this project last any longer than I did; the mulberry silk/merino wool yarn from Sweatermaker Yarns, a gift from Trish from a holiday she took to Vancouver, was just too delicious.

Naturally, it seems to be discontinued now (it was 'Lily'), so I'm sorry for telling you how delicious.

And I'm sorry for the picture too because I know it's making you want some of this yarn.  Can you believe the way it's reflecting light, even with my not so fab camera?

Now, this shot is of the side I showed every time I posted a picture of it in progress.  Flat, that side looks like this (except with more colour, because I really have to get a grip on the camera situation):

As you can see, lots of lovely knitting with just a little movement, and when you wear it that side out, the cowl stands up around your neck.

But on the other side...

Yep, a cool stitch pattern that was so nice to work inside out - super easy and fast, and you can see it building up to the next repeat with minimal effort.  Perfect comfort knit.

With the purl side out, the cowl falls into folds around your neck:

Either way, just the perfect amount of warm.  Once I've got this thing on I so much do not want to take it off.

It struck me while I was knitting this cowl that it is a perfect gift knit, so when it was done I made Pete try it on saying Of course I know you would never, ever wear a cowl.  But after going off to a mirror to look he said you know what? I might.  And with this ringing endorsement I feel confident in saying it's not only a fast and not-yarn-intensive knit, but a unisex knit.  Which becomes very compelling as the holidays approach.

This is where the yarn being discontinued is an additional sad because it means I have to find a readily-available substitute.  I'm on Door Number One right now, which is 100% superwash wool (so it may behave differently in the folding-over department) and a good deal less expensive and comes in a rainbow of colours, and then I will try a less luxurious silk/wool blend in a lighter weight and variegated yarn just in case that doesn't look awful, and then I will get this baby written up to share. 

Because it's been a long time since I've been able to do a free pattern and we're due, don't you think?

So stay tuned for that next week I hope, and in the meantime, have a great weekend.  Make something!  even if it's just a sandwich.  after all, they are super yum, and we deserve the yum.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

This week's woven scarf success story

Because I'm still having trouble comprehending the notion of Keep It Simple, I gave myself a goal of weaving one thing a week, warping my loom on Saturdays to be ready for the next week's project.  Don't ask how this week's scarf is going, but yay! Last week's is entirely loom-free!

The sides aren't absolutely perfect, but over the length of the scarf the width only varies about an eighth of an inch so I'm comfortable with that.  I mean, apart from the test-placemat, this is the first thing I've ever made on a loom.

Trish wanted to know how far a skein would go on a loom and in this case, it went pretty far.  The yarn is laceweight from Biscotte, a seasilk/silk blend, which ran about 709 yards in 115g.  I messed up the warping a little way in and had to cut off a huge hunk of yarn when I realized I was making the scarf shorter than I wanted (note to self: don't do that again) and so at the end I used one of the cut pieces to take the scarf just a little bit longer. 

So: I guess I used about 700 yards to get a scarf that is 79.5" long not including the very long fringe which I will trim later, and more or less 11.25" wide. 

That's laceweight though.  With fingering, you're looking at more than one skein, and you're allowed to ask me how I know that one, sigh.  (but the answer is for next week.)

Have a great day guys - I got a lotta weaving to do so I'll see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Crafty organization for a small-desk drawer

I'm having another crisis of house-envy so today I'm going to brag about my desk drawers to make myself feel better about the very tiny (but cute!) space I live in.

This is the shelf that stops things falling off the right side of my desk onto the floor.  And when I say 'floor', I mean the very tiny area in front of the radiator that's just big enough to support the bottom of a very small IKEA 'Billy' shelf.  In fact, my desk, which is an IKEA slab standing on mismatched IKEA legs because that's the only way I could work around the aforementioned radiator, runs just over 3' wide and is wedged under my bedroom window between my bed, my wardrobe, and this shelf.

And yes, in fact, I do refer to this area as 'my office.'  sigh.

But that's not all it is.  It's also my sewing table... because that's the only place where my much-loved Bernina sewing machine can fit.

So: my desk is not only tiny, it has to be each of the following at the drop of a hat:
1/ bill-paying central
2/ knit design emporium
3/ writer's den
4/ sewing table
5/ bedside table
6/ papercraft zone, and
7/ um, playspace... because I seem to have a few Playmobil figures around now and they treated themselves to an RV because I read way too much Attic24 and realized that is the closest I am ever getting to my own Connievan. (hey, just be grateful I am not forcing you to sit through an RV photoshoot, even though the dishes that came with it are SO ADORABLE.)

Those drawers up on the shelf picture have to house the bits and pieces for these activities that don't logically fit into my bedroom closet - too small to store clothes in, it's where the bulk of the sewing gear lives - or the craft pocket organizer on the inside of my wardrobe door.  And up to about a month ago, it was pretty messy, but then I had an inspiration.

Isn't that tidy?

I've got my trusty red seam ripper close at hand, my sheep measuring tape from Lantern Moon, a special pin Melissa embroidered, the index cards I use for a ton of different things, my purse-ready pencilcase made from a an old cardboard cookie container, paperclips, my bunny-shaped hole punch - thank you Auntie Helen - and the all-important yellow Citroen that... okay, I also play with a car at my desk sometimes.

(but not at the same time as I'm playing with the RV because they are not even remotely the same scale.)

And now for how I did it:

Yep: recycled snack boxes with one side cut off.

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out and bought drawer organizers only to find they don't really fit or don't work when I reconfigure my storage system, which happens every time I find I simply have to fit in some new craft activity and/or supply.  For this fix, I just walked over to the drawer every time I emptied a box to see whether it would be of use there or not, and if it was, I cut it up and put it in.  It's a small thing but honestly: getting all this stuff off my desk, and yet totally accessible and more important, easy to find, is just a huge time-saver.

Tomorrow: back to our regularly scheduled yarnfestings.  see you then!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Knitting chat

My favourite part of this past weekend was an hour or two I spent listening to really beautiful choral music while knitting more of the cowl I've been making with the yarn Trish gave me.

It's funny - when I was growing up I could. Not. Stand. Choir. Music.  This posed a challenge for me because in whatever free time he could muster my Dad was a singer, having trained as a boy chorister at the cathedral here in Toronto - when not in actual choirs he was in demand as a soloist for every wedding and funeral in our parish.  Not admiring the music my own dad could and did perform was, to say the least, inconvenient.  But I just didn't like it.  By the time I hit my late twenties though, a few years after he died, it all turned around and now I love it.  Sorry Dad.

That story doesn't have a whole lot to do with this cowl beyond the combination of parental resolution, comfy chair, heart-melting voices in harmony, and absolutely the most wonderful yarn/pattern combo you can imagine, all inside on a grey rainy day with the furnace kicking out just the right amount of warm.

Icing on the cake: the stitch marker I threw onto my circular needle after casting on at my desk, when I realized it was that or walking downstairs to find a real one.  This is the bulb-shaped safety pin that attached the price tag to a dress I bought last spring, and something about it - the shape? the colour? the metal? - just spells Ahhhh.  I think it's a style thing.  And this pin with this yarn and those needles and the stitch pattern I threw together - it's just 100% yum.

My only disappointment is that the yarn is DKish and the cowl just knit up so FAST.  And I want more.  I don't have quite enough of the yarn left to do a whole hat, but I think I will need to rig something up between what I do have and something that can make friends with it. 

(by the way, I'm being a bit sneaky with these pictures.  There's a trick to this cowl which I'll show you in a few days.  stay tuned!)

* * * * *

After my weekend of incredible leisure, I spent today shifting from one transit stop to another for a bunch of different appointments.  I didn't get much knitting done on bus or subway, but while on a break for coffee in at a bench in a mall I did spot a very tiny girl wearing handknit leg warmers in her stroller.  Brilliant, I thought: totally covered that gap between the blankie bunched up in her fists and her very cute baby shoes.

So of course, I got thinking that knitting baby leggings is absolutely the right thing to do for the two couples whose new babies I want to bring a present to.  Because once you're two months late with the gift, it starts to seem logical to take even longer with the gift, if it means more knitting time.

* * * * *

The other thing I noticed from the very same spot was a number of people walking up to the shop doorway in front of me to take an iPhone picture of something over my shoulder.  At first I thought this was one of those things that people do with iPhones (I don't have one, so what do I know?) but when I got up to leave I glanced over there myself and discovered they had all been taking pictures of the display in the doorway of Victoria's Secret.

Is that a thing now?  Because the underwear in there looked pretty standard-grade Victoria's Secret to me.

* * * * *

A couple of nights ago I wandered through a thread at Ravelry with pictures of the last few club yarns from Knitterly Things.  This was an error in judgement.

I have SO many socks knit with Knitterly Things' Vesper Sock (see 'Yarns' tab above), because it was the first club I joined, way back before I even knew how to knit socks, and I kept renewing.  It takes me about 2 months to knit a pair of fingering weight socks, and you get 2 skeins of yarn in that time, so it doesn't take a lot of math to figure out I am swimming in Vesper Sock, even though I eventually made myself stop renewing 'until I caught up'.  I was doing okay with that plan until I realized I could buy one-off skeins of Vesper Sock from the online shop, and now I'm back up to about a year's supply.

Le sigh.  Yesterday, I was early at the dentist's, wearing one pair of Vesper socks and knitting another, and Maria admired them both, and I remembered the yarn pictures I'd just seen, and I thought MAN, I really miss those club shipments.  And when I got home I saw the next club is opening up for new memberships (which I guess is me, after all this time) in November.

I wonder how much more Vesper I can work through in two weeks, so I can justify joining?

* * * * *

Okay: time to get on with the day.  Mine is looking pretty good even though I'm not quite sure where I'll be working the knitting in, and I hope yours is too!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Cool knitting tools: the Grant One-Needle Looper

My life is happily punctuated by the Awesome Spring Sale and the Awesome Fall Sale, both held at the church a couple of blocks away.  Guess which one was on Friday?

These rummage sales are attended in a very big way, with a lineup out the door well before it opens at 3pm.  I usually go around 5 and look for for vintage kids' books I might have missed during my original childhood, vintage cloths of all kinds, 1930s to 50s dishware... and of course, craft stuff.  I have never yet come away without a great find, and sometimes a pretty great cookie or three to boot.  (the other times, it's just because I resisted.)

This season's bounty:

A never-opened box containing a Grant One-Needle Looper.

I'd never heard of this tool for faster knitting, and that may be because the marketing phase for them in North America appears to have lasted from around 1969 to 1971 (but don't quote me!)  The technique is apparently very similar to naalbinding, a one-needle fabric-producing technique thought to predate both knitting and crochet, and about which I had also never heard, at least under that name.  (After looking at the lobster claw socks that illustrate the Wikipedia page I just linked there, I kinda wish I still hadn't.  horror movie feet, anyone?)

The Looper came complete with instructions, a stitch dictionary, and a booklet of patterns:

Note the fold I couldn't press out.  This thing truly never saw the light of day till I dropped $1.50 on it.

The tool was also marketed as the K-Tel Knitter.  Does anybody else remember K-Tel?  Man, I sat through more K-Tel commercials as a kid, to say nothing of the K-Tel records I listened to as a teenager.  Here is K-Tel's commercial for its Knitter:

I'm not sure why this is more appealing than knitting or crochet.  I guess it wasn't for a lot of people or it would have taken off, although - thanks to the internet - I know there are some who love doing this and have even made their own tools to supplement the size range and replace lost or broken ones.

Now, every so often somebody rather younger than me who didn't live through the 70s will exhibit some fondness for that decade, and/or surprise that it was not my favourite.  Well kids, here is why I do not regard it with boundless affection, my beloved bright orange polyester shorts notwithstanding:

That poor woman. 

Now the tool itself is pretty interesting.  I was distracted by the clothes and didn't notice right away how the whole thing works.

Basically, you have yarn running through the hole in the end of the stick, and you tie a slip knot, and you make loops.  (selling feature: you can cut into the finished garment anywhere and the hole won't run; each loop stands alone.)

Let's think about that for a minute.

And maybe look at the tool.

I know I can probably cart a set of supersharp double pointed needles and a sock on a plane to Italy without causing a stir but still.... I can't help thinking the risk of anybody feeling threatened by this thing is less than zero. Plus, it did pretty much fall into my hands at just the right time for me to learn to use it.  Fate?

Or maybe I should just learn how to do naalbinding, because that's something I can do with a cheap plastic superblunt darning needle that packs even lighter.  H'mmmm.

Updated, one year later:

As GrammaJeannie points out, the video above cuts short just at the interesting bit.  Fortunately, an incredibly skilled gentleman has uploaded some videos explaining it all.

Part 1

Part 2

Have fun guys!!