Monday, December 31, 2012

Magical knits

When I left you last, I was spinning and prepping some magical yarn, so I'm sure you're terribly anxious to hear how all that went over the weekend (or... not, because you probably did something much more fun than I did.)

Oddly, in spite of this being a magical process, I did some of the most uneven spinning I've done since I was first learning to use a spindle when I made this yarn.  Was I perhaps watching too much Lost in Austen?  And then I had to knit the neckwarmer three times before I got it right:

and it's still not entirely right, judging by the reference to 'neck brace' when I displayed it for a second opinion.

('right' would have involved looking swish enough to wear without a coat buttoned up over it, but since its primary purpose is to hug my chin and earlobes on really cold days, I am willing to take it off with my coat if it has to look dorky to do its job.)

Now, I could fix the problem by adding a second and/or third band of broken ribbing about mid-neck and leaving the clingy rib for the top for its chin-hugging function, but it does the chin-hugging spectacularly well and is overall a super soft and yummy warmer, plus I needed to be done by Sunday night, so I'm just going to let myself wear it a few times before I think further about ripping out and doing it over.

That's because I ran into a bigger problem with the hat:

See that yarn scattered around the start of it?  That's what I had left after the cowl and the hat band.  And I mean, 'all.'.  I spun all the Polwarth fiber I had left to get it, and I got out my scale and weighed it, and I knew it would take me to the crown of the hat and no farther, so I had to start thinking about contrast colours which was


because when I imagined the magical hat and cowl set it was pure white.  And that's the sort of thing I get more than a little caught up in.

Well, I dragged myself sadly to my basket of handspun yarn and pulled out a green and white combo I thought would look great even though it's a bamboo blend that won't be warm like the Polwarth and guess what I found in the same bag:

tra la la la la - more Polwarth that I'd spun before and duly forgotten about.  hurray! the hat was saved!

(well, that last ball of Polwarth spun up in a little lighter weight than the rest, and also a little pinker for some reason, but it's better than green bamboo, and the hat came out great.  I'll show you another day after it's dry and we've had sun for photography, because there is so much more to the magical hat and neckwarmer story.)

Happy New Year's Eve

People have so many different kinds of rituals for this day, and sometimes they change over time (like, I am SO over going out to see a late showing of a Disney movie on New Year's Eve.)

These days, I clean up my desk on New Year's Eve, by which I mean the daytime part because cleaning a desk while everybody else is blowing a paper horn under falling streamers is a pretty sad image (unless the sequel to cleaning it is using the clean space to write a Pulitzer-prize winning poem in the ten minutes that come after.)

It is going to be so great to go to sleep tonight knowing that my desk is once more clean and clear with space for me to shove unlimited amounts of unnecessary paper and scraps of fabric and yarn for, oh, two and a half weeks before it starts overflowing again.  Yay!

Programming Notes

I am taking some vacation this week - maybe one day, maybe two - and not posting here.  I mention this not because I think somebody might freak out if I'm not here rambling on about yarn like the consistent spinning of the earth depends on it, but because if I say it I might actually take some vacation this week and not post here for a day or two.  It was pretty hard not to have posted every weekday last week even though, it being Christmas, I was a little too busy to do it anyway.

Anyway I'm thinking Wednesday and Thursday, so after tomorrow I'll see you when I see you.  Meanwhile: do some good knitting today and send out the year in style!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Making magical yarn, and other excitements

I'm so excited to tell you about a new project I'm hoping to finish by the end of 2012:

which started with spinning the yarn I want to use for it.  How sad is it that it took me two months to connect my new white boots that don't match anything with the undyed, lusciously soft Polwarth fiber I've had forever?

Here is the plan:

1/ spin the yarn (done)
2/ ply the yarn (done)
3/ skein and Soak the yarn (done)
4/ once dry, cake and gauge the yarn
5/ knit a cowl
6/ knit a hat with what's left(ha)
7/ black down coat, white accessories, Mary all matchy

But there is more.  The goal here is to make magical yarn, with calming properties.  And for that, this fiber is perfect.  It's true that no artist touched it with colour, but the soft, pretty scent it came with has never left it.  And I mean never; I made a hat with some of this fiber a couple of years ago and even though it's been Soaked and set out on a shelf and worn in all weathers it still smells sweet.  Plus, it's soft and fluffy like warm snow or non-sticky marshmallow, were such things possible.

When you're making a magical thing, it's important that every step be full of magical elements.  So for the spinning, I watched some favourite British programs - which I mention because they are posted free on TV Ontario's website, here in Ontario at least (scroll down once at their site):

Lost in Austen

Foyle's War

And that is pretty much all there is to tell about the Magical Yarn Project today.  Updates next week!

* * * * *

Earlier this week I heard from Caitlin at All Free Knitting who wrote to tell me that two of my patterns - my Escapist Shawl and Milkshake Scarflet - were among the 100 most popular at the site in 2012.  So I get a button!

and I'm on a special list now at All Free Knitting (and you should check out that list by the way, because there are some really fun free patterns in it.)

* * * * *

It snowed here:

I had to take pictures, because last winter we had I think three snows of which just one looked about this deep before melting, and this winter Ottawa has had tons of snow for ages.  Toronto is never as cold as Ottawa, but we are supposed to get snow on a regular basis between December and March (inclusive) so that's a little weird.  Though now that I'm a driver, I am deeply grateful and kinda hoping any snow we do get over the rest of the winter will happen either on days I don't have to drive, or enough hours away from said drives to allow clearing up at a civilized hour, which I can tell you right now isn't going to be 5:30 am.

Because the snow started on Boxing Day and I was therefore staying up very late to milk every last minute of my special day, I can show you what it looked like at 1:30am through the lens of flash photography:

In real life, it was somewhat whiter and the brightness extended right out to the lawn owing to the reflective nature of snow under streetlamps.  sooooo pretty.

Also pretty, the next morning:

My fence.  Insert happy sigh (because it is still a holiday and I don't have to rush to clear a path to anything for any reason, as long as I don't run out of hot chocolate.)

And that is me for this week.  I hope you have something fun lined up for this weekend, and I'll see you again Monday!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas is for reading (or, Kindle vs. paper)

Boxing Day is a huge day for me, much more splendid than my birthday or any other nice day in the year, because it is
my day off.

On Boxing Day, I don't do anything I don't feel like doing, no matter how hard it is to resist taking care of a few little chores so as to make the next day a little less full of them.  Nope: this one day of the year is for me, to spend curled up with a blanket, some sweets, and a book or, if necessary, some crafty thing that is 123% fun and not a bit for getting done by any particular deadline.

Okay, I did break down to wash some dishes and pay some bills and do some urgent spinning - more on the spinning part tomorrow - but this year was mostly about the books:

and as you can see, I had to face down a tough comparison between electronic reading versus the traditional and cosy paper-based version I've known and loved all these years.

Here is my feeling about e-readers: they are not books.

But they do take up rather a lot less space than books, and I live in a very small house with bookshelves already overfull.  Plus: I am not likely to stop reading or wanting books anytime soon, if I haven't done so by this time.  So e-readers are a logical thing to get excited about, even though as I say: they are not books.

It wasn't easy for me to choose to buy an e-reader at all, let alone to choose which, but in the end I decided the significant cost savings associated with a locally-available Kobo reader were, for me, nothing compared to the very long battery life associated with a more expensive, less Canadian public library-friendly Kindle.  So that's what I went with.

I was getting over the fact that it is weird to read a book without page numbers or a title up in the corner of the 'page'... and then Christmas came and I could let myself open a present from my genius cousin who always finds the very best books for me:

which reminded me why a paper book is just so much better in every way but real estate (and tree) consumption.  The cover of this book - well, you can see the painting.  But you can't feel the softness of the finish, the weight of the paper, the tactile delight it brings to the gorgeousness of the writing itself.

(Good Evening, Mrs. Craven, by Mollie Panter-Downes, is an anthology of short stories written in England during World War II on the quiet but powerful stresses in civilian life.)

Of course there are some things you would never want to peruse on a Kindle (though a tablet is another story) if you could have them on paper, regardless of the shelf-space they might command.  Things like a spiral-bound instruction manual for interesting weaving techniques:

I haven't tried any of the ideas yet, of course, but it's very satisfying just to look through the pictures and read the directions, all so approachable and inspiring.  (The Weaver's Idea Book: Creative Cloth on a Rigid Heddle Loom, by Jane Patrick.)

Or a heavily-illustrated book like Wildwood, by Colin Meloy with lovely drawings by Carson Ellis:

(I've wanted to read this book for a long time and am feeling a child-like delight in being on page 410 of 538, in spite of all the other things I did yesterday too.)

And really the whole point of a book like Russian Textiles is to drool over the sleek, thick pages printed with breathtaking colour and designs in between long passages on the history of it all.

Still: I do see the point of a Kindle too, now that I have one.  It means I can read a novel anywhere I remember to bring it along with me, without much extra bulk or weight in my bag.  And if the one I'm reading proves too much for the moment, I can switch to something else.

On my Kindle, ready for whenever I might need them:
John McPhee's Annals of the Former World
Neil Gaiman's Coraline
Neil Gaiman's The Anansi Boys
Mark Helprin's Winter's Tale
Mark Helprin's A Soldier of the Great War

(and soon to be added: Kathleen Taylor's The Nut Hut.  So excited for Kathi to have this available after so long!)

Yep: Christmas is definitely for reading, and in that respect, the magazine Lannie gave me got it absolutely right:

It's a perfect Christmas.

Hope you're having a good week too and I'll see you again tomorrow!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Cookie rescue: Christmas edition

Christmas Eves are busy where I live - it's a good thing I don't have to be in an office today.  The crazy starts with a skating party, moves on to a cake party, and at some point there will be a baking party as I try to pull together at least one batch of chocolate chip meringues in time to serve as Christmas Day dessert. 

(Also, even when filled with the scent of evergreen, a house needs the scent of freshly baked chocolate chip meringues to really sing.)

I was getting a bit worried about not being motivated to make these - they were a staple in my house growing up, so this year it just feels less fun to make them - and then last night friends came by with a bag of goodies  they'd spent their day making:

WHEW.  Christmas Day dessert: saved.

And something similar happened on Friday night, when another friend turned up holding a huge tray with a gorgeous apple cake on it, surrounded by chocolate-drizzled shortbread stars. 

"I thought you might be having a hard time this year," she said, "and I wanted you to know I was thinking of you."  I knew that with every bite (which is why you are only getting a picture of the cookies.)

Sock News

I don't know what I was thinking, but in all the mayhem of trying to avoid baking cookies I neglected to wash any of my handknit socks.  So instead of official Christmas Socks, my skating party attire is leaning toward lime:

We still have a tiny bit of snow left from the other day's mini-fall, and word is we might get quite a lot on Boxing Day! I expect to see some pretty overexcited children at the skating party, because we haven't had a proper long-lasting snow in Toronto for quite a few winters now, and there are an awful lot of sleds and snow-brick kits gathering dust as a result.

Before the weekend I mentioned I might work on the small-person socks with a view to having at least one pair done by Christmas Day.  I was actually on track to be done them on Saturday night but then there was a disaster involving a bottle of salad dressing that ended up throwing off a lot of schedule, so the socks are still on needles with maybe two hours to go.  Think I can make it, between the parties?

Household Tip Corner

One last thing before I go: if you have any idea how to get balsamic vinegar stains out of dents in a hardwood floor, do tell. 

In return I can share a household tip of my own: a gravy separator makes an excellent watering can for a Christmas tree.

I hope you have a wonderful few days filled with love and companionship, and I'll see you again after Boxing Day!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Snapshots of a sensible knitter's Christmas

La la la, Christmas is almost here, and my house is a complete mess.  Also: the tree is not up, and the space where it goes is filled with a sewing machine, which I can't move until I free it from the Things I'm still supposed to wrap or use for said wrapping.  (Oh, and the spinning wheel, which I'm hoping I can sneak in some time with if I leave it out long enough.)

On the upside, the stuff going out the door or into place is charming, even if I did knit a lot less than usual this year.

I am in love with all that red and white, aren't you?  It's the result of my going a little crazy for Japanese masking tape on Etsy. 

Disclaimer: some of the stuff I bought turns out to have been old and no longer adhesive, grrrr.  But that red squiggly roll was perfect.

I bought fancy clementines with the leaves still attached from a super-posh grocery, then supplemented with regular un-stemmed fruit.  It's all pretty as far as I'm concerned... and so yummy!

Carol's slippers!  I can't believe the stripes lined up in the end.  Bonus: they fit her.  I should really knit Carol  some actual socks because she has the tiniest feet of anybody I know (and maybe if I did she would stop making me do quite so many abdominal exercises every time I go to her gym.)

Brown paper lunch bags and bright red sock yarn.  This is how you make a little box of unbelievably delicious caramels look even more forbidden.

Oh how I love this little red felted wool ornament, bought from the shop near the cottage to remind me that summer will indeed come again.

Not pictured: the Christmas cards I finally wrote a critical few of (aunts and uncles only I'm afraid) and will be mailing today... if the lineup at the post office isn't entirely out of hand.

I hope your Friday plans are progressing nicely and that your weekend will be relaxed and enjoyable (or at least not filled unbearably with the wrong kind of mayhem.)  See you Monday, if only to check in briefly before Christmas Day.  wheeeee!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Gift knitting: accepting the unrealistic

The other day a very nice person wrote to ask if I would be interested in reading a study she was doing on procrastination, and how it is increasing in society.  I had to decline because it has become apparent to me that far from understanding procrastination, I live with the opposite problem.  In fact I have such poor judgement regarding the relationship between the amount of time available and the number of tasks I wish to achieve, that Trish has been trying to persuade me to relax already.

Of course I know that Trish is right.

It was crazy to think I could make adorable retro Christmas corsages from felted wool to give a bunch of friends to wear to a marathon of Christmas music performances, the week before said marathon.  It was just as crazy to still be thinking about doing it the day before, and especially to be gathering together all the findings I'd been buying up for the last few weeks.  Around 9pm the night before, I did finally give up trying to find two hours to sit with a needle and thread, having nobly jettisoned the idea of making a dozen felt pinecones to add to the mix.  Instead, I focused on wrapping presents that were to be given at the very same time.  Listening to Trish: good plan.

It was also crazy to think on Sunday night that I could knit a pair of slippers for one person to give on Wednesday morning, and knit a cowl for somebody else to give on Wednesday night, even though I had a full schedule for Monday, Tuesday, and especially Wednesday.  I was still thinking I could maybe pull those things off on Tuesday night around 10pm when I really should have been heading to bed even though Meet Me In St. Louis was on and who turns off Judy Garland, especially when she's singing?

I mean - hello, Trolley Song!

Trish to the rescue again, because I'd forgotten about steam blocking until she conceded I could manage the slippers if I went that route.  Wednesday morning delivery: accomplished.

(I did try to make the Wednesday night one in spite of everything, but it didn't happen - she was totally right about that one too.)

Trish tells me that I don't need to go nearly so far over the top with little token presents as I tell myself I have to, and if she could only be unquestionably right about one thing, I would pick this one, because I totally get that I am very silly about those things and it would save me a lot of trouble if I just listened to her before I start up again for another cycle of them.  I've spent weeks accumulating odds and ends and I spent all of last night wrapping them into little parcels and you know what?  I could only fit half what I planned into the brown paper lunch bags that are my standard Little Present wrapping of choice.  Think of how much knitting time I would have saved if I'd just been practical.

(about as much as I'd have needed to finish the Wednesday night knit, that's what.)

Anyway, now that all the presents are wrapped and ready to go for everybody who is getting them by the end of this week - I have kind of a thing for early deliveries - I am thinking


(or perhaps, Hallelujah?)

(thanks Kathy, for sending me this link!)

So: where does all this leave me? 

It leaves me with the next two days off, with no making or shopping to do, and an extremely manageable amount of wrapping, plus a a few batches of chocolate chip meringues to make.  Or to put it another way, it leaves me trying to figure out how fast I can spin and knit up a cowl for myself, and maybe a matching hat, for New Year glamourousness... while finishing at least the first pair of small person socks I had to abandon about a week ago.

I should probably still be listening to Trish, shouldn't I.

In unrelated news, check out this video of Judy singing from Thousands Cheer:

How do you think the vest she's wearing was made?  Macrame?  Crochet?  Pom poms worked with the mesh or sewn on afterward?  I don't know whether I love it, but I sure wish I had that hairdo.

Okay: time for me to go clear my dance card for impractical, unrealistic, over the top spinning.  If you choose to be impractical today too, I hope you have as much fun as I do!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Sporty socks: two-tone purple no less

Did I ever show you guys how my purple athletic-striped romney/mohair socks came out? 

Of all the Stoddart socks I knit last summer - and as you may recall, there were a lot - these are my favourites.  I'm constantly torn between saving them for what I expect to be a difficult or cold day, or greedily wearing them.  Judging by the frequency which they end up in the wash, I think the frugal aspect of my nature is at its lowest strength where they are concerned.

What makes them special is partly the yarn, which is the heaviest of all the weights I bought for socks.  They're just super nice and thick and warm and squishy.

But I also like the way the colours went together.  I had the light purple from Stoddart's woolshare program and thought it would be a good match for the darker shade I bought at the Knitter's Frolic in May.  Bonus: combining the two gave me a chance to make the legs as long as I wanted.

Well, they're not knee socks obviously, but they are just enough longer than all the others to be useful on days when my leggings are a bit shorter than I like, or my boots a bit taller than can accommodate a view of my other Stoddart cuffs.

Apart from how comfy they are, I think my favourite part is their toes.  Their toes are exactly the same as all my other contrasting sock toes so I don't know why that should be: I just know that it is.  Looking at the perfection of the toes while I'm doing Pilates actually helps me enjoy the workout.

Socks: is there anything they can't do?

(if they know, it would seem they aren't telling.)

Hope your day is as warm and snuggly as my purple sport socks, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Weaving, in green and orange

This is it, the last thing I am weaving for Christmas (this year, anyway):

It's another Malabrigo laceweight/bulky combo, this vibrant orange and red being the lace.  What I'm weaving through it is an equally vibrant green:

I am starting to wonder whether it's a bit much.  But it's intended for somebody who has a knack for over-the-top colour and I think it'll be okay.  It helps that I've seen her wearing a burnt-orange coat this winter.

And maybe it won't be quite so ZING in real life?

At least the actual weave is going to work this time.  Here's the one I finished before, in darker colours:

Shortly after I finished this scarf, which I considered to be quite attractive, I was given a scarf of woven silk that looks like fine wool, feels amazing, and is charcoal grey on one side and black on the other so that when you tie it around your neck you get both sides showing.

It looks FABULOUS.

It makes me think I am a crazy person to think that anybody would want a loosely handwoven scarf for Christmas when you can buy such gorgeous things.

On the upside, did I say handwoven?  And also: one of a kind.  (probably never doing this again though, unless I use handspun as well.)

As a public service I feel I should mention that there is a problem with this particular yarn combination, or rather with using Malabrigo's baby merino laceweight as a warping yarn, and that is durability.  Malabrigo is barely spun anyway, and in laceweight there's not a lot of fiber density to stand up to the heddle moving up and down with every beat.

With the first of these two scarves I manage to thin and stretch one strand of the warp so extremely that it took me a good two inches of weaving to secure it again before it snapped altogether.  Talk about yer breath-holding: whew

Thankfully it did come out all right because an epic failure this close to the day I have to hand these presents off for other people's trees would be too heartbreaking to bear.

Let's hope the rest of the last-minute elving goes as well, and any gifty shenanigans you are getting up to!  Take care and I'll see you again tomorrow.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Knitting bag: Japanese linen edition

Remember the terrible failure of my blue and black weaving project?  This is what I made to replace it:

The newer-to-me friend I am giving it to is not just a super nice person, but also somebody I particularly want to thank for a lot of 'little' (it's big to me) help she insists hasn't put her a bit out of her way.  You know people like that too I'm sure - people you may never know quite well enough to be able to return the favour, such that you just have to make something for them to properly show your gratitude for having them in your life.

Of course, the other aspect of not knowing somebody quite as well yet as you'd like to is that it's tough to know what to make.  That's  why I was in despair when the Perfect Scarf Idea didn't work out.  Then last week - and it's amazing, frankly, that this never came up before - I found out that she knits.  Well, every knitter can do with a fancy tote bag, don't you think? 

I haven't written this up as a tutorial because it's just a very simple lined tote bag and there are tons of instructions for those that will have better proportions than mine does.  But I did want to note some special things about it.

The biggie is that this bird-patterned fabric is something I bought to make an iPad cover for a small friend, plus extra to make something for my mum, who loved birds and also, blue.  As it turned out I didn't think of a good project in time.  But this friend is one of several I have with mom qualities I especially appreciate right now, and it seemed like the right time to use some of it.

I was very careful to make this bag as perfectly as I possibly could, and one thing I thought would look nice was double stitching down the centre of the straps:

It's possibly not even visible in this picture, because I was lucky enough to have an almost perfect match in thread, but you do get a bit of texture along the stitches.

I also added a pocket to one side of the lining before I sewed it all together:

I decided to leave the selvedge as the exposed edge for the top of the pocket, because it seemed so soft and feathery.  I kind of wish now that I'd stitched it down the middle before assembling it, or else added a tab closure, because the pocket does flop open a fair bit.  Probably that won't matter when it's in use though.  Might even be an advantage, if that's where the working yarn lives while the rest of the project materials rest below.

The straps are long enough for shoulder bag use but also for hanging off a doorknob or the back of a chair, and I boxed the bottom in case it's ever so full of yarn as to stand up on its own.  I'm very comfortable with the way it came out.

And in case you're wondering:

it took three hours.

against the eight or so I spent on the scarf.  SIGH

And speaking of the scarf:

Bob was over on the weekend and I showed it to him as an example of Weaving Gone Wrong.  He loved it even after I'd pointed out all the flaws, so I gave it to him.  Everybody's happy.

I hope your day has a small victory or two in it, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Friday, December 14, 2012

UpCountry Hat: a free pattern

I am loving the hat I made to match my UpCountry Cowl:

(just much as I'm loving the cowl, which is saying something.)

I've been testing in some pretty chilly weather: it's warm, and very comfortable.  It was easy to knit in just a couple of evenings, and it really does make the most of stripey yarn without having put me to any particular effort at all.  I think it would look great on a guy, and I might even consider making one as a chemo hat, for daytime or sleeptime use, because it's so squishy and soft.

The checkerboard-ish stitch pattern seems to hug my head well, and trap a bit more heat than plain stockinette.

And the ribbing that's folded up inside the bottom of it is not only very snug and just right for over my ears, it gives a purl ridge a chance to be the  bottom edge for a change.

Especially nice: for some reason (the inside ribbing? the accordian effect of the stitch?) my coat collar doesn't push it up out of the way.  And even if it did, the transition from texture to stocking makes the crown fall flat instead of sticking up with a hint of 'she's hiding something up there.'

And really, how cute are those circles at the top?  I don't think I'll ever get tired of that look in a stripey hat.

UpCountry Hat

Twisted Fiber Art
Duchess Self-Striping yarn (100% superwash merino wool, 240 yards, 100g), 1 skein
4.0mm 16” circular or double point needles, or size to obtain gauge
stitch marker
darning needle

20 sts, 28 rows = 4” in stocking stitch, after blocking

Finished Dimensions
S (M, L): 16.5 (18, 19.5)” circumference; 7 (7.25, 7.5)” long once the ribbing is folded inside the hat. Using Duchess, size M fits comfortably on a 22” head.

Level of Difficulty
Easy: stitches include knit, purl, and knit two together.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Writing yarns on pretty yarns

This, my friends, is why you don't cut yourself off from a great yarn club just because you think you have too much yarn already:

It's the November installment of the Knitterly Things club I rejoined after a couple of years off to 'catch up'.  I missed so many great exclusive club colour combinations!  and I'm so glad I didn't miss this one.

(or the candy, which turned out to be white chocolate with peppermint crunch.  they were AWESOME.)

Of course, now I want to spend the next two weeks knitting more socks for me instead of knitting for Christmas, but that would be crazy because there is still quite a lot to do even though I have been spectacularly organized this year and also, shopped for most things.

One thing that is coming along and shouldn't be neglected is the pair of Turkish Bed Socks I am knitting for Carol:

The design requires you to stitch up a long opening at the heel-end side which sounds like a pain but isn't at all.  I've knit this pattern so many times now, and I never stop loving how elegantly it produces a comfortable, attractive slipper that fits small into a bag for overnights or emergency room visits or just being warm at a friend's house after you take your shoes off to stay a while.

Carol also loves them - I think in part because of the time in winter she had an injury so bad they were the only socks she could get on for several days.  In fact she asked specifically for another pair this Christmas which makes me so grateful I kept notes on her first ones; she needs such an impossibly small size I can never quite believe they will fit an adult, but she tells me they are perfect so I know if I just follow the pencil marks on the pattern sheet, I'll be fine.

It's both useful and, to me, interesting that I have such notes.  Earlier this week I had a conversation with a friend which echoed the one I have with most friends and acquaintances after we haven't chatted in a while.  It goes sort of like this:

Them: So, are you still writing?

Me: Pretty much just my knitting blog every weekday.

Them: Your knitting what? (or, your what blog? or perhaps just, Oh.)

And then I explain, and they say that's great with varying degrees of sincerity depending only in part on whether or not they knit too.

Whatever the variation, this sequence always leads me back to one thought:

How on earth have I managed to find enough to say about knitting to keep up five posts a week for almost four years?

Because seriously, it's going to be four years in January.  Isn't that scary?  Sure, I knit, but I do lots of other things too (don't I?)  I can meet somebody and have an intelligent conversation about things not including textiles.  Though now that I think of it, I often do slip in some reference or other.

For example I failed to check myself at a party last month where I was chatting with a man and two women, the latter of whom turned out to be knitters, and the moment I ran to my purse to dig out my twined mittens to show them - I was actually handing one to the man so he could check out how soft they are - was the moment Trish walked into the house and caught me being nerdy, so maybe I can't not talk about knitting to people who don't knit, after all.

(I am pretty sure I would never catch Trish doing such a thing.  She would wait till the man had gone and then slip the mtts to the women who actually cared.)

So: maybe I can't suppress the passion for yarn.  Can you imagine what I'd be like if I didn't have a blog for an outlet?  Yikes - that is really scary.

As is the day I have planned, frankly, but it's Just One Day, and there will be knitting at the end of it, and that will be very nice indeed.  I hope there's knitting at the end of yours too! and I feel sure I will be back again tomorrow with more things to say because apparently I am a bottomless pit of knitting talk.

(aren't you lucky?)

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Glamour shots: blue Christmas socks

There hasn't been much sun around my place lately, but how much natural light do you need to showcase natural good cheer?

(plus a snowman.)

I'm so happy I made these socks, and made them so very fast.

They're just warm and happy, and who doesn't need that, especially when up to one's nose in wrapping and tags and all sorts of everything holiday?

(except holiday candy, which I really need to get on the job about because hello, candy?)

Yep, it was a great idea to take time out from anything that would have gotten me ready for Christmas so that I can frantically try to reach the finish line in great-looking Christmas socks.

And speaking of which - the frantic part - it's time for be to begin a particularly crazypants day.  With luck it will include not just exercise and a post office run, but also some photography (yep, I finished the newest hat!) and some wrapping and oh golly wouldn't it be nice if I were able to wind some more yarn into cakes and/or cast on something new?  I mean, you gotta put the pants into crazypants somehow.

Random joke of the day:

What colour is the North Wind?


Okay, that's me off and out the door.  Have a great day - I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Handspun hat: finished

I finished the hat I made to match my twined mitts, and I think I love it...

... but I'm not 100% sure.

Things I know:

Handspun yarn is really amazing to work with.  The mitts and this hat are the first projects I've made with yarn I spun and which pretty much holds its gauge instead of wobbling all over from bulky to laceweight, and I am unquestionably in love with the airiness and the gentle colour shifts that go with this particular batch.

The hat came out exactly the way I hoped it would, which is to say, with at least a tiny bit of yarn to spare (I figure I made it with 20 yards left over) and looking not unlike a 1920s big-at-the-top style.

This is gonna be a seriously warm hat.

The hat will not crush my hair.

I am pretty happy with how long it took me to make and affix a black felt button to finish it off

(20 minutes, including digging through a bag of felted wool to find some in black.)

It is a huge relief to have this hat done and ready for today's cold snap.

Even if it looks dorky on me (you may notice I have not included a front view here) if I have to wear this hat for warmth, I am gonna wear it with pride, because I hate being cold a lot more than I love not looking dorky.

(and it works okay with my new cowl, but just in case, I just finished a second hat to match that.  A hat which I might add I would chicken out and wear today, if it had managed to dry overnight, sigh.)

Hope you are warm and cosy wherever you are today - see you tomorrow!

Monday, December 10, 2012

UpCountry Cowl - a free pattern

If you're thinking about how to solve a last-minute gift problem, or the weather is suddenly very cold and you need a cowl yourself, or you are swimming in Twisted Fiber Art's delicious Duchess yarn, then boy do I have a present for you:

I finished my warm winter cowl, and I love it so much I wanted to share the pattern with you guys.

The whole cowl thing has been a slow transition for me.  I mean, don't scarves work just fine on their own?  And how do you wear a cowl, anyway, so that it's functional and not just a decorative giant wrapped accessory on top of your coat?   So many confusions.

The fact is, a cowl slung over your head and dropped down like a necklace does an amazing job of keeping your neck warm and, consequently, an awful lot of the rest of you. Who knew?  And living in an uninsulated house as I do, this is a pretty big appeal even indoors.  Still, a loose-fitting super soft necklace cowl doesn't face down brisk winter winds.  I needed something that would hug my neck, stay in place, and cover my chin if I need it to.

And that's where the UpCountry Cowl comes in.

This cowl is designed to fit snugly and cover some serious neck territory.  Super-elastic ribbing at the top and bottom of the cowl hold it in place on your chin even if you put it on upside down.  A checkerboard stitch inclines the fabric to fold itself, accordian-style, into your coat collar if you pull it down a bit.

And the texture is not just fun to knit - it looks great in Twisted's self-striping yarn.

I've included instructions for two sizes: 'mine' and 'bigger' to cover most of your gift knitting needs.  You can get either one out of a single skein of Duchess.

And... yes, I did try the cowl on as a hat, and it's awesome, so now I'm knitting up a hat sample and I'll be posting that pattern as a second freebie later this week or early next.  We've been through a lot this year so you deserve more than one present, heh.

(the cowl also makes a great-looking, super-warm headband when it's folded in two or three layers.  I might try that for skating this winter.)

UpCountry Cowl


Twisted Fiber Art Duchess Self-Striping yarn (100% superwash merino wool, 240 yards, 100g), 1 skein

4.0mm 16” circular or double point needles, or size to obtain gauge

stitch marker

darning needle


20 sts, 28 rows = 4” in stocking stitch, after blocking

Finished Dimensions

S (M): 18 (19.5)” circumference, 8.75” long. Shown in size Small.

Level of Difficulty
Easy: stitches include knit, purl, and knit through back loop.  Cowl is worked on a circular needle and cast off without decreases.