Friday, August 31, 2012

Surprise visitors, knitting nests, and actual knitting

At the beginning of August when I should have been focused on where my next knitting meal project was coming from, I allowed the cottage grounds to be infiltrated by more female stereotypes.

(translation: I bought more Playmobil figures.)

This lot seemed to be more landlubbing than the original girls.

This lady is some sort of dragonfly fairy.  She was supposed to come with one dragonfly but got packed with two, so I'm thinking her wrists must be super strong to be holding them both up like that.

She could be a serious knitter I bet.

Vampire girl here came with a choice of faces, the other of which is just wrong for a Playmobil figure - all fangs and red eyes and stuff.

As it is she appears to be on the brink of making some sort of sacrifice with that 'wine', or maybe she noticed it's orangeade and can't face drinking it?

I don't have a clue what this one is doing in a series of surprise Playmobil figures.

A girl in a towel and slippers, with a brush and a hair dryer?  Doesn't she even have, like, magic fairydust fingernails or something?

And finally, the one I bought four more Playmobil surprise packages to get:

Yep.  I know, she's so cute.  Even with that giant monster chair looming up to eat her alive.

I'm sure you are dying to know the site of all these photographs.  Well, here you go!

Welcome to The Yellow Chairs.

The exciting thing about these chairs (I know, what passes for exciting in my world is pretty sad) is that they used to be set out every year on the other side of the path to the water.  And I never ever wanted to sit on them.  This year, I thought: why aren't they on this side, near the hammock, so people can be chatty all in one place?

And then I looked up and noticed the giant widowmaker-type broken tree limb waiting to fall down and crush me, so I held off on moving the furniture until after it was cut down and sliced up, and then I started sitting there all the time.

Some of the slices make pretty fab end tables and footrests, don't you think?

Okay, I promised Actual Knitting.

I realize this is still just Bob's socks.  But this is what they look like up at the cottage, just kinda set down on the coffee table as I get up to make another cup of tea or something.  Just like Pete's crossword gets set down so he can go out and stack up more fallen branches in the woods.  (Apparently stacking fallen branches is to him what weeding dandelions is to me: soothing and therapeutic.  But I bet you I get way fewer scrapes and scratches.)

Don't they just look so beautiful that way?

MAN I miss the cottage.  It's closed up now mostly - no sure time to go back till next summer, alas.  I am so grateful for it, and for the almost-three hours of knitting time each way, but I'm not quite sure how I will do without it now that I'm so deeply in love.  Good thing I got so many pictures!

Have a fabulous weekend my friends.  I am not posting Monday - it's a long weekend here, and I want every last speck of what I can spare from it - but I am wishing you all very happy knitting times.  Or decorating, organizing, or generally cleverbootsy times.  See you Tuesday!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How not to stripe your stripey handknit socks

A while back I was knitting some gorgeous mohair boot socks (aka socks thick enough to keep your toes warm even in unlined boots in winter) and I noticed I was running out of yarn.  Quite a long way from the toe in fact.

So I stopped knitting and pondered the problem, which spawned a new problem, which was that I didn't know what yarn to use to cover my toes.

And that problem spawned a question: how come we knitters are quite content to wear fingerless gloves, while toe-less socks are only logical in the case of pedicures?

But we will leave aside the question for now.  Let's get back to the problem, and the solution to same.

Yeah, I striped.  Mostly the solution was to give up on getting a good match from my stash, and just to accept that it was enough to find more of the same yarn base.  So, I am living with this almost completely unrelated Easter lavender colour and guessing that nobody will even know because hello,

Boot. Socks.

Unless I take my boots off, nobody will see the nonmatchy toe.  And my toes will be happy.

(this is me, learning to be accepting and flexible.  how do I look?)

Now, the stripes start pretty close to the toe.  If I'd been planning, I might have started earlier, which would have been smart for several reasons.  Instead I assumed that both socks would run low on the main sock colour at exactly the same time (this never, ever happens, and I know that, so I don't really know what I was thinking.)  Then I noticed that the second sock's main colour was running pretty darned low about five rows short of where the other one did.

Oh, if only I had weighed/measured/thought straight.

Looks like in addition to having wrong-colour-stripey socks, I will have assymetrically striped socks.

Or do I mean, adaptable socks?

Either way: I have so much better a plan for the next pair of mohair boot socks I knit.  Because knowing what I know now, I can be 100% sure I am going to run out of yarn early, all over again.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

So many things, knitting and otherwise

Whoa! Yesterday got so busy I didn't have time to tell you all the (un?)exciting things I wanted to tell you.  Mostly I was busy with photographing things for future topics, which is ironic since it made the day an empty space in HugsLand.

And... today won't be much better. 

In good news, there is a lot of stealth knitting going on and I am slowly but surely clearing a path to a big project I haven't even told you about yet (which means that nope, it's not a shawl for my mum... still kinda thinking that one over) and which... well, okay, I'm probably more excited than you guys will be but there you are.

I can tell you though that one of the heap of things I've been photographing is a heap of covers of cards my mother received and saved over the years - specifically, the super cute cards from the 1950s and 60s.  (The "Our Gift For You" one above has a black feather on one of the petals.) I'm in the process of getting them into printable format for clipart to share.  Cool, yes?

(and it would be cooler if she'd kept the Valentines she'd given to Dad.  still: the To My Wife ones are very pretty even if they do cut out a percentage of people who might wish to print and gift them.)

That's me for today: I have many hours lined up of knitting and casting on and possibly Kitchenering ahead.  See you tomorrow, take care!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Knitting venues: hammock edition

I knit in so many nice places this past weekend, after what I feared was a ridiculous overpackingness of knitting projects.  I mean, did I really think I would finish three projects and need to cast on a fourth?  (of course not.  I just... you know.  wanted to be safe.)

Some places I knit:

In the car on smooth unwavering highways

In the car on a super windy hilly dirt road, while keeping my eyes firmly fixed on the distant horizon (I still got carsick after a while and had to put the needles down)

In a pew in church, bathed in the golden light from an open stained-glass window that let a lovely breeze through

On the dock at the lake

On the sofa while watching a movie

And in my most favourite place of all:

My uncle's hammock.

O-migosh, is it ever great to knit in the hammock, if only you remember to bring a cushion out with you to lay your head on.  After a twenty or so minutes at this time of year you can start to count up the hemlock needles that have landed on you, and then you really feel you've relaxed.

While I swung lazily in the hammock I enjoyed the amazing scent of burning wood from my neighbours' bonfire, and if I looked up from my knitting, I could even see the smoke from it.

They were roasting corn on the cob, still in the husk - they just leaned them up against the stone wall of the pit and turned them occasionally.  After the corn was done they brought a few cobs to me for a present and WOW - it tasted like bacon!  I can't imagine how you'd top bacon-flavoured corn on the cob.  It was delicious later, cold, too.

Looking straight up:

I could see the canopy of the trees that shelter (and, in two cases, support) the hammock.

The cottage is a wonderfully peaceful place to knit and yet, it's taken me all summer to find that out.  I've been so busy cleaning up after mice, taking out some old and bringing in some new, swimming! (especially swimming, at every opportunity) and baking bread from scratch, I haven't just Sat.  I hope next summer will have more Sitting in it.

Or better still, lying in the hammock.

ps: it was so great that I overpacked my knitting.  it took me three tries to find a project my fingers wanted to work on and my eyes wanted to look at, and my mood kept changing so I ended up working on all those three in turns through the whole break.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A mixed bag of crafty

My body clock says 11am but my computer is arguing for 4:30pm, so I'm going to give up on the idea that I'd finish a hat and photograph it and get the file uploaded before I really have to knuckle down to finish today's task of Curtains.

Instead: you get a mixed bag of splendidness.


A friend tipped me off to a feature on the Nissan website that lets you pretend you're going to buy a commercial van and then wrap it with your company logo.  Right.  Let's get serious:  how about a van full of yarn and fabric stash, wrapped with images of all your finished projects?  Or maybe just your favourite cool fabric?

I wrapped my van (high top for more coverage) in the fabric I'm supposed to be turning into curtains after lunch, which happened two hours ago and was two hours late at that:

Still just so not tired of these cars. 

Toe-(and heart-)Grafting:

Unbelievably, I am onto the toe decreases for Bob's second sock, which means I could potentially be ready to graft both shut before he gets here.  (If the curtains go superfast.)  I had the idea to graft some other toes shut tonight too as I have two pairs of socks waiting for that little task but... did I mention curtains??

The unbelievable part is that what helped me finish the foot was watching an entry in the GI Joe movie franchise.  I swear, if I could have about a week of mindless action movies, that would be a good thing for me, and that is so not usual.

Of course there was that huge John Wayne bender I went on after Les died last year - for some reason, he always reminded me of John Wayne, and all those westerns kinda helped.


One thing I really want to get onto this fall is eating healthy again.  I was reminded of the fact that 'again' is not unreasonable by the recent opening of a grocery store a few blocks from here - it's one I used to go to another branch of for a couple of years, to stock up on really good meal components which I would freeze and then thaw in installments for meals I planned ahead of time.  I was actually even keeping predictable meal hours then too.

Anyhoo, between that an the looming trip to Italy, I've been watching Lidia, queen of the Italian cooking show (in my house anyway).  Before GI Joe came on she showed how to make some pesto on pasta.

It goes like this:

Toast some walnuts.

Boil pasta, while blending the walnuts, a whack of basil, some spinach, some salt, and some oil in a food processor.

Pour the cooked pasta into a cold pan so as not to cook the pesto, then chuck some pesto onto the pasta and toss.  Add cheese.


I mean really: surely I can do that??


Oh man I am running out of time to do this job.  The reason it's still not started is that all the fabric I like is either not big enough or the wrong width for the lining I have available, so I'm gonna have to improvise. 

The plan for the cottage kitchen window is exactly this lame... two panels of unlined, nearly sheer white cotton, topped with red-banded white tea-towel fabric set perpendicular to the panels and folded such that the red band shows on the outside of the window too.  (actually this is partly so I don't lose any of the panel length to the top hem, but I like that they will be more or less reversible.)


I am supremely focused on clearing up clutter this month - such a good coping strategy - and one thing I have really needed is a superfast way to organize the clutter in various desk and cabinet drawers.  I am so sick of buying sorter things for pencils etc. and then changing the configuration later and having to store the sorter things for a few years until I decide I can use them again.

So, this time, I just cut the relevant side off an empty box of cookies or crackers or cereal.  When the cardboard wears out, I can recycle it in favour of a new box.  Ditto when I change the setup.  And in the meantime, I can make the side of the box the 'top' for deep narrow storage at the side of a drawer, or the face of it, for something wide and shallow.  I even recycled the firm plastic nest for some cookies to hold erasers and paperclips.

I'd apologize for the lack of pictures if I didn't know you'd be bored out of your mind looking at pictures of such a boring (but functional!) crafty bit.

Curtain-Making Redux:

Okay, I'm outta here.  Off to the kitchen to open up my ironing board just when - oh man, it's 5:00 and I should be doing something about supper.  Or not! I can still eat at 6:00 and hope the curtains just whip themselves up, right?

Maybe you guys should just send a lot of good curtain thoughts my way.  And check in next week because if I pull this off, I am totally posting pictures.  Meanwhile: have a fabulous weekend.  Knit, sew, organize, have good snacks, and take care of yourself.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Still Giant: The Bobsock Story

There is just no getting around this: the socks I'm making for Bob are enormous.

Also, they make my arm look really weird, unless you imagine that I am in the middle of a ballet pose with my arms encircling the air in front of me.

True Story

When I was little I wanted to learn tap dancing so badly, and mum said No, you will learn ballet, because

a/ Moira-Ann was signed up for ballet and it meant we could carpool and

b/ tap dancing is noisy and I was the youngest of five and really I don't think mum could take one more thing.

Then when it was time for the ballet recital I got out on stage and looked into the audience (big mistake number one) and spotted mum and remembered that she had put a KitKat chocolate bar into her purse to give me for doing a good job at the recital (big mistake number two, by mum - why on earth did she tell me about it ahead of time?) and I promptly forgot every step.

What I will never forget: the sight of our ballet teacher doing graceful little twirls in the wings, her face both frantic and terrible as she willed us all to remember the choreography.  Because naturally, I had to be the tallest in the group and therefore the kid all the other kids were taking the lead from.

(no idea whether I actually got the KitKat.)

End of True Story

Back to the Sock (mostly)

I'm very happy to be almost finished Bob's second sock and not just because it proves to me that I do have the stamina to knit elbow-length gloves; I'm seeing Bob tomorrow and will be able to make him put on the one that just needs the toe grafted shut.  If I could knit fast enough and Soak and dry the socks in time - supremely unlikely - I could also give them to him the next day, before he leaves town again, and be in time for his birthday which is somewhere in the week after that.  Wouldn't that be nice?

It would also be nice if I had a tidy, sparsely decorated house, but that's even more unlikely than having dry, finished socks in time for Saturday.  I know because I spent about 6 hours in the basement's Room of Doom yesterday and filled up 5 garbage bags plus 3 thrift store bags and you still can't see the whole floor.  On the upside: the stuff that's going out next has shifted to a more accessible position, and when it goes, I might...

should I say this?

will I jinx myself?

... have space for a sewing nook down there.

Man, I should so not have said that out loud.  And anyway it won't work because the 'desk' on which I was going to put my machine is too tall - great for standing at, but that's all, and I'm not certain a foot pedal is quite so comfy when you use it standing all the time.

Movie News

I am just back from seeing ParaNorman in a real live grownup theatre, an outing I kinda got out of the habit of which is too bad considering I live in Toronto, home of the Toronto International Film Festival, which I keep thinking I should really make a point of Doing some year.

At any rate, a movie about a bullied loner who sees and talks to ghosts and has to save his town from witch-cursed zombies is probably not the perkiest choice I could have made this week but I still liked it and recommend it (though possibly not for very small children because there is some super scary swirling of witchy clouds in parts.  The zombies on the other hand are mostly adorable.)

Here is the thing about these bullied loner movies: even though I myself experienced both bullying and comparative popularity in my youth, I always feel like bullied movie-heroes have it so great because they always seem to have a much more interesting home life than I did and also, super cool clothes or flexibility or something.

Norman for example has a fabulous running style and jeans that scrunch perfectly around his very cool (red!) running shoes.

So, I got out of the house and had a nice time and still managed to feel like I should buy new shoes.  How does that work??

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Finishing a knit, starting a can of worms

It feels like ages since I designed anything - or rather, finished designing anything - which is mostly because I promised certain people I would stop doing that, so I could do more essential things like eating actual meals and living in a dust-reduced house that maybe has fewer boxes cluttering up the basement.  Since I made that commitment all I've managed is the not designing but we live in hope.

Anyhoo, last night a friend showed up at the house bearing snacks and found me sitting on the porch.  Oh! she said.  Look at you, reading on the porch, how relaxing!

and actually I was reading knitting stitch dictionaries.  THE GUILT.

Here's the thing.  I still can't find a dream shawl pattern, and I had the stitch dictionaries in my hands before I knew what I was doing.

I told myself I was just browsing, you know.  Looking at pretty stitches.

Soon I was thinking, mum would love that stitch, it's like the leaf on her favourite houseplants.  Or, That one would be so nice as a shawl border.

And by the time my friend showed up, I was thinking, But I designed a shawl while I was grieving for Les, why not for my own mum??? 

So when my friend left and I went back inside, I gave myself a stern talking to and got out a long-suffering hat to start finishing off.

(even though the hat is one of the unfinished designs that snuck through the so-called break from designing, which makes it probably not so much of an improvement.)

I dunno... maybe I don't even have the right yarn for a shawl named after my mum.

Maybe I should go shopping?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Should you knit what you don't love?

I was very excited a couple of weeks ago to decide it was time to cast on a shawl with the gorgeous orange-into-black Tomcat colourway I bought from a recent Twisted Fiber Art club.  The question was, which shawl pattern?

I really like the way a crescent shape works for me, so that was limiting right there - most shawls that aren't triangles or rectangles are semi-circles, which don't have the same hug factor.  Then I noticed that quite a few of the crescents I liked were knit side to side, or bottom-up, or some other way that I couldn't get excited about.  I wanted a nice easy but interesting vehicle to get some soft cashmere blend colour up around my neck, not to spend weeks poring over complex lace patterns.

Just as I was about to give up and design my own, which is something I really need to avoid right now, I fell for what I think, in spite of the story I'm heading down into, is very pretty:  Tess Young's Crowning Glory Lace Shawl.   Not only is it a crescent without a hint of a short row, it has a marvelous non-curling starting point.  Also: several rows with just pure knitting or purling, such that you can pause at the end of a complicated patch and pick it up again while visiting with friends.

Deciding Factor: the 'crowning glory' refers to the lace stitch which has a second name, referring to a cat's paw.  Could there be a better fit for my Tomcat yarn? I don't think so.

Introducing Tommy the Seven-Toed Cat

Well, I cast on the shawl the other day when I should have been finishing Bob's socks, and decided after the first repeat that I needed a bigger needle.  So I ripped out and started again and this is how I know I adore the start of this shawl.  It is awesome even when you are knitting it the second time, and it works.  Really, really well.

My first clue that something was wrong turned up on the first try, and was reinforced on the second when I could have adjusted my approach.  There is nicely balanced set of decreases that disappears partway through the repeat, to a decrease on one side only.  And that is hard for me to knit because I am a little compulsive about balancing things.

Naturally, I had to meddle.  I didn't understand why you couldn't just keep the decreasing pattern, and I decided I would add that in myself and make up the difference in stitches in the next row, which I did, and it worked great until I looked at the finished repeat and remembered that the stitch is called a cat's paw because it's supposed to have five holes above a very large central hole, and my version has seven.

Hence the loss of the balance in the pattern as written.  Oops.

Still pretty though!  Look:

Yet in spite of the pretty, I find myself saying H'mmm.  There's just something wrong, and I can't quite put my finger on it, but it's making me question whether I really want to go on.

Is it the fact that I'm not enjoying the motion involved in working the specific stitches for the cat's paw? (because even though they are pretty ordinary, I'm really not enjoying those motions.)

Is it the stretches of plain knitting that produce the ridges, combined with the lace, combined with yarn heavier than Tess envisioned, in a colourway that is going to start very soon to fade from one very distinct hue to another, which is likely to produce an accessory much more busy than I would ever wear?

Is it me feeling guilty about not clearing the half finished socks out of my basket of knitting?  or possibly the hat that only needs the crown knit?

GAH, I don't know.

What I do feel certain about is that the feeling isn't going away and it's not likely to as I get further along - not nearly as likely as the time is to go away, and the time is definitely not going to come back.

I'm going to try to sit on the problem for another day or so, because I wouldn't put it past myself to rip out this shawl and start knitting my second choice, only to decide to come back to this one.  Maybe what I should do is cast on the second choice in an alternate yarn, so that I can look at both and decide which I prefer? even though what I prefer is a shawl made out of Tomcat and socks made from the alternate, and anyway, I only have the one set of needles to work with?

(how is that possible, by the way?  nobody has more needles than I do, surely.)

Anyway, there I am.  Knitting something that for reasons I don't understand, I don't love.  And not feeling sure I should be.  Such a silly predicament for a sunny, lovely day!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A gift from my mum

I stopped being surprised at the mysterious and magical coincidences in life a long time ago, and I'm not surprised to have learned of several that happened around the time of my mum's death.  For example, the pair of mourning doves who followed Pete around the afternoon of the day she died, going so far as to peck on the windows of the different rooms he was moving in and out of.

The one I'm going to tell you about today happened to me, a few days after her funeral when I went to take a first pass at clearing up her apartment.  I did one room, talking to her the whole time about what to do with what, and then I went into the next and sat down, too miserable not to take a break.

Mum, I said to myself, Tell me what do next.

And my eyes turned to her crochet bag, which stood beside her sewing box, and I thought well, I'll just see if she'd done anything lately (she hadn't.)  Tucked into the side of the bag was a piece of card stock, with her writing on it.  Mum was given to writing out verses and passages if they struck her the right way, so I wasn't surprised to find that, either.  Here it is:

I'll write it out properly in case you can't read her writing - I've looked, but I have no idea who wrote it, and I apologize for not giving credit.


Life is like a river flowing always to the sea.
Sometimes it's smooth and gentle when it carries you and me
The sun shines and the water's warm; it's where you want to be.
The rocks and hidden currents can roughen up the ride
But if we look around we'll find Another at our side.
So we take the hand that's offered us, or reach out one to them,
And the next thing that we know, the sailing's smooth again.
The river turns and twists.  We can't see what's ahead.
But we'll get there when we get there is all that can be said.
Sometimes we feel quite lonely on our journey to the sea,
But God waits with outstretched arms to welcome you and me.

Apart from the reminder that we're never going to know what's around the corner, even when we think we're just going to have a nice visit and some cupcakes, this struck me as so very true of mum and also of my own experiences.  You don't have to go through more than one or two bad times to recognize the value of a helping hand, and - even if one hasn't been offered to you - to want to offer yours to somebody else when you can.

Mum was always doing some little thing for somebody, from volunteer work to making a meal for a neighbour who'd suffered a loss to inviting somebody over who was new in town.  In the years after my brother died she'd say Well, I'd like to think that somebody did that for Bob.  She was less able to give her own hand recently, but she was as sweet and appreciative as ever about accepting one offered to her.

And that underscores what I like about this verse... the balance between offering and accepting. You can do one or the other of these seemingly opposite acts but the result is the same: the river gets smoother.

And isn't that the truth?  It's not better to give than to receive - it's great to do both.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

Socks for a giant, and retro transit for me

Hello mr. innocuous sock, lying around on my front walk:

How simple and basic you look.  But wait!

Is this a baby sock lying on top?  Or perhaps that of a small child?

Nope: it's my sock, demonstrating Scale for Bob's sock.  Seriously, is his sock huge or what??  I take a size 7 in Grownup Lady so it's not like my feet are teeny.

Not that I'm here to point at Bob and laugh at his giant feet or anything.  My objective is to brag about how awesome I am to have gotten this far in such giant unpatterned socks knit in monochromatic yarn, especially when I have so many brightly coloured, artistically-dyed yarns in my stash from the very same yarn source (Stoddart; check the Yarns tab above for the link!)

Yes, truly, I am a splendid person.

Okay, I will fess up, I am not splendid, I am just smart.  As you may recall I started these socks for Bob when his mom was dying, and I am determined to finish them before the movers come to take away the last of my mum's things now that she has died.  They are Mom Therapy socks.  You don't have to think, the colour is as peaceful and natural as can be, and the fabric is soft and comforting.

Still.  I miss colour.

Cue some delight:

In July I was very excited to discover that some fabric I lover eversomuch was still available in enough yardage to make curtains for my room at the cottage, and I ordered it, and it didn't come, owing to some postal issues.  It was duly sent out again after boomeranging back to source, and just now as I was pondering a day without colour,


there was a thump at the door.

plus a little bonus I had added in for a treat:

I have no idea what I will do with this little piece of little trains, I just basically love them.  And you know what, sometimes it's just really important to surround yourself with stuff you love, even if it's not yet a Thing.


Over the weekend I'm going to post something special from my mum. 

It's not crafty. 

I just feel like I should say that up front because I know some of you are really only interested in the knitting. 

And for those of you in that camp: I am on the brink of casting on something that isn't a sock and does have colour, so there will be a little Yay next week for you too.  See you then!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Hello basket of knitting, and other stories

In pursuit of busywork (though actually, clearing up a week's worth of the stuff that accumulates when you're not paying attention isn't so much busy as necessary) I piled all my little bags of knitting and knitting accessories into one place and got this.

(That basket is about 10" tall and 19" wide, if you're wondering.  Also: it a Reisenthel carrybag, in the 'Garden' print. I got a little obsessed with Reisenthel baskets over the winter and this is part of what came out of all that.)

If I were just thinking about what I was knitting, or glancing at my Ravelry page, I would name two or three small projects. So I guess I must be somewhat in denial? I do know this is just the stuff that was upstairs, being convenient for getaways and public transit trips.  There is more piled up beside my knitting sofa downstairs, and also under the knitting coffeetable.

(this is what happens when you knit a lot, I find.  furniture doesn't just get called by its proper name any more, it's "knitting - [piece of furniture].")

Luckily the basket includes my twined mitts,

which are all done except for running in ends and blocking.  I'll give them their big debut on their own day, they've earned it.  But right now I can tell you they are super pretty even inside out, and I did finish them when I wanted to.  Go me!

Also in the basket up there: Bob's socks, which are undyed and a solid colour and have no pattern whatsoever and yet have somehow nearly reached the end of toe number one.  How is that possible?

And I think all of that is all I have to say on the subject of pure knitting.  I have two more stories that are crafty as a transition, but I'm going to talk about my mum today so if you come to Hugs for the light remarks, I won't be the least bit hurt if you move on now.  I'll have cheerier stuff in a day or two.

* * * * *

I talked with a bunch of ladies from my mum's craft group at her wake, and it seems she did beautiful work, the most beautiful and inspiring of all the crafters.

This was crochet, not knitting, and she went to the group to make things for the annual bazaar at church.  But she also did a lot of granny squares to stitch into blankets, being careful to coordinate colours from whatever was available to her at Zellers, the Canadian edition of - what, K-Mart? Target?  Mum was a Depression-era girl and was never going to get my willingness to spring for hand dyed wools, though she did love to touch what I was knitting.

Her goal was to make every one of her grandchildren a blanket to take to university, and the one who was leaving most recently got one that was finished up just after mum's health began to decline.  I'm so proud of her for pulling that off because believe me, those last few squares and the finishing were tough for her.  She was motivated though.  She loved her grandchildren.

* * * * *

People have been sending me flowers and they are so pretty.  I took pictures of the first two deliveries for colour inspiration:

Green, purple, and white

Yellow, white and textured red (this one is from my new office, which makes me feel pretty good about working there.)

* * * * *

I mentioned mum was a Depression-era girl and you'd know about the hardships of that time, both economic and personal, if you talked to her long enough.  She didn't sugarcoat.  Mostly though her stories were just funny or about something fun.  She had a lot of friends and was close to her whole huge extended family.  From those connections she found more good times in the simplest of activities than anybody I know, but she wasn't outgoing or bubbly as such.  Though she participated in everything she was a little shy I think, really.

What struck everybody about her was how nice she was.  How warm and generous, how kind, how peaceful, how welcoming.  That really came out at her funeral, how very many people cared about her for those qualities.  I mean: she hadn't been at that craft group for nearly three years, and none of her friends there knew her kids, but they came anyway.  They'd missed her.

That doesn't bode well for me, does it.

* * * * *

This is a little hard to write but I want to share it, because somebody else might find him/herself in this situation some day and benefit from knowing it.

Mum died right in front of me.  Just as she was taking her seat for a little family celebration she had a massive heart attack and a moment later went into cardiac arrest, which is essentially instant death.

It's good to be aware of that 'instant death' part for two reasons:

1/ A body will go on breathing for up to ten minutes after cardiac arrest.  And that body is still dead.  Really.

2/ It is possible to bring somebody back from cardiac arrest.  But unless you are able to do it the moment it happens, you are not going to bring him or her back even remotely to where they were.  Especially if s/he is 87 years old and not 100% superhealthy.

I had a lot of guilt for the first twenty-four hours because I hadn't known or accepted those two things.  If you're ever in my position, try to cut yourself slack early on, okay?  You'll have enough to deal with, trust me.

* * * * *

"Hugs For Your Head" refers to hats, but also good things for your brain.  I am very interested in how our brains work and thank goodness, because after the first day I was able to figure out where my guilt came from, and trick my brain into letting go of it.

Here's what I did: I listened to Pete, who was there too, when he explained that because I only looked up from the chair I was moving in the moment mum's body fell, I missed seeing her have her attack and her cardiac arrest.

Now, I was conditioned to do everything in my power to prevent my mother from falling because

fall = broken hip = pneumonia = slow, painful death

So when I saw mum fall and be instantly unresponsive, I assumed her unconsciousness was the result of injuries from that fall and therefore my failure as her daughter.

This wasn't true, I knew that, but I couldn't get my brain to let go of it.  Finally it occurred to me to change what I was seeing every time her fall flashed up in my mind (this is still happening a lot, it's trauma, what can you do?)  And what I did was to sort of sketch in a picture of her spirit moving forward out of her body as her body fell back. 

Instant relief.  Now all I have to deal with is grieving.  It's still not fun, but at least it's true.  Try it if you ever find yourself in a similar spot; maybe it will work for you too.

* * * * *

The last thing I want to say today is the most important, and it is

thank you.

SO much.

Thank you to every single one of you who commented or e-mailed a message of sympathy after mum died.

I am pretty sure we have a wide variety of cultural approaches to grief here, but one thing that we all share is the coming together in community when a loved one passes.  My cultural tradition is to gather at a funeral home - the family is present for one or more periods of time, and friends and family come to offer their support and their prayers.

I have been to enough funerals now as both a mourner and a supporter to know that this gathering is key to recovering from such a loss.  But I also knew that this time - as with Les last year, in fact - I was going to have to get through three days before the gathering could begin.  So I told you all what had happened, and I started calling and e-mailing all my other friends, and all that talk and comfort carried me past those tough three days.

Amazingly a lot of those people and more, too, came to the funeral home, and still more to mum's funeral mass.  So even though we can all agree it is really hard to lose your mum, I gotta say, I feel very well-supported and hugely, hugely grateful for all the good people in my life.  Including all the good people here whom I've never actually met.

Okay, I'm done now.  I'll be back tomorrow or the next day; I have to show you this crazy giant sock I'm making for Bob.  Hopefully it will be sunny for my poor little camera.  Fingers crossed!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Another break for bereavement

You'll have to forgive me for being in more than a bit of shock about this, but I have to call another Hugs hiatus owing to the sudden loss of my mum last night. 

You never met such a generous, loving person in such a peaceful personality.  And what a sense of humour!  She's had some health problems the last few years as most people her age do, but they've never gotten her down - she could always make a joke about them.  She adapted to everything, all her life.

I'll have to learn from her example and adapt to going on without her.  I know it will be hard because I know she never stopped missing her own mum.  But I'm sure I will find a way.  It's just going to take a few days for me find my footing because even though I was sort of prepared... you're never prepared.  You know?

I probably just need a week.  I'll probably knit a lot.  There will probably be some good pictures when I get back.  Take care of yourselves while I'm gone, okay?  And make some nice stuff.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Light at the end of the twined mitt tunnel

Leaving aside the terrible photography I've committed on this rainy day, I bring to you a great big Yessss!

With a small patch of nooooooo! because after meeting my goal of finishing up to the top decrease on my Ravellenics Mitts last night (very late) I have not yet knit any of said decrease today and I need to move on to the thumbs in the morning tomorrow.

Though I can't actually do the thumbs tomorrow, as I will be busy all day. 

Which means the busy things probably just won't happen because I really want these mitts into their bath by Friday night.


Nearly done!

I waited all day to get sunlight to take pictures of my exciting mitten progress and ended up missing the only ten minutes between rainclouds because I was throwing stuff out from a closet I can now see into the back of.  It's quite liberating if you don't look at all the stuff that's still on the floor and isn't going back in.  But there was a reward, because my efforts produced not just dust bunnies: I also got my hands on the solitary miniature twined mitt I made in a class I took over a year ago now.

(Don't tell: all this time I've been vaguely aware of possibly not actually twining these mittens, but doing something entirely different by accident.)

Well, whew, because when I spotted the mini mitt I hastily turned it inside out and compared the stitches as best I could:

Yeah, I know.  Rain + Flash + Totally Different Yarns.  Still: it's the same stitch.  I'm okay.

Now that I'm nearly done I should be thinking about all kinds of other exciting knitting projects I could do, like the shawl I'm dying to cast on or the Bob Socks I wouldn't mind finishing or the hat that's on to its crown.  But you know what I've got on my mind instead?

Knitting more twined mitts.

With the bulky yarn I spun for this project in the first place.

Le sigh...

(they'd go faster the second time though, right?)

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Craft space clearout: why get motivated?

Being crafty is such a marvelous thing - it's so amazing to produce something fresh and useful and self-reliant rather than just buying it in a store.

Except for the times when it really makes a lot more sense to just buy it in a store (so that the mess and the time spent all happens at somebody else's house.)

* * * * *

Yes: it's true.  I am once again trying to clear out the room in my basement that catches all the (mostly crafty) overflow from the rest of the house, so I am really focused on how clutter can both help and hurt us.


1/ Clutter means stuff, and furthermore, stuff that isn't in its right place.  Sometimes putting stuff together that would normally never be together produces great ideas, is a slightly less attractive version of an artist's seemingly disorganized studio serving as a constant source of inspiration.

2/ Clutter means you're not putting time into cleaning or tidying.  This in theory means more time for making.  Yay!

3/ Clutter means you have lots of stuff to work with.  Need a sheet of clear plastic, a particular type of wood glue, some unused keychains, or maybe even a pair of old pants you can cut up for the back of a quilted pillow?  It's probably in there.


1/ It's tough to find what you need in the time you have, if your stuff is all jumbled up and messy.

2/ If you're not the kind of artist who is inspired by disorder, you might be the kind who is overwhelmed and crushed by it.  Or, if not by the disorder, then by the sheer volume of projects you have mentally committed to take on.

3/ You may find you are repeating the same boring tasks over and over instead of using your precious time to empower yourself by making something fresh and new.  (see comment above, about cleaning out that room AGAIN.)

* * * * *

I'm so determined to resolve this issue once and for all, I've decided to develop some simple tools to share here at Hugs that build on the conclusions I'm drawing as I work through the process.  Maybe they will help some other crafty people to cut to the chase, and maybe they will just help me stay on track if I ever get into this mess again. 

(Normally I wouldn't give you a heads-up over simply developing the tools and posting them here but, um... Turner Classic Movies is running a Cary Grant/Jean Arthur movie and I really need to work on my twined mittens, so I can't work up the flowcharts and quiz sheets and post the guidelines.  Sorry!)

* * * * *

In the meantime, think about this.

Yesterday after reading about Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, for fundraising purposes, riding her bike from Toronto to Montreal which is just - well, it's a very long way - I went down to The Room of Doom with one small goal that took two hours to achieve, and I wanted to cry the whole time because I've tried to achieve similar small goals there so many times before only to have the place fall back into disorder before the month is out.

Then I asked myself, which is harder:

Riding a bike the distance it normally takes about seven hours to drive?

or Reorganizing a room that just needs some firm decision-making to clear out?

Okay, I admit I was pretty tempted to sign up for the same bike ride next year if it meant somebody else would come and deal with that room, but when you weigh it out in sheer number of knitting hours lost to training and doing, the bike ride wins.  You can totally clear out your craft zone to make it an inspiring and productive place.  And so can I.

(right after I've watched that movie and worked up a flowchart or two, ahem.)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Ha! we have twined mitten progress

I was beginning to think I would never finish my twined mittens before the 2012 Games are over, and then it occurred to me that all I need to do to make it is Actually Knit.

Here is what an hour on the dock before supper, plus a more practical viewpoint on yarn-untwisting as I twine my way along, did for Mitten #1:

In spite of the view looking like this,

and this.

Honestly I do find the whole cottage thing so dreamy, the downside of which is that I am still having difficulty remembering which house I am in at any given moment.  Today after working too long on a huge reorganization job in the basement I thought: time for a swim! and then remembered there is no lake in my back yard in Toronto.  Harumph.

Let's look at the mitten again, shall we?

I'm going to have to pick up more stitches for the thumb than the pattern calls for, and I suspect the hand will be a bit on the snug side, but it should fit all right.

Anyway I am not ripping back or adding on more stitches at this point... especially since I realized I am busy all weekend and will have to be done by Friday or miss the deadline for my Games team at Ravelry.  Which would be terrible, not least because I would have no more motivation to finish these things before winter comes.  Just today for example, putting away some ribbons, I spotted the tail end of some Noro yarn I've been using to tie up gifty parcels and thought




even though I don't have any other Noro in the house. 

I'm in a dangerous position I guess is what I'm saying here: the days of my caring about just one project at a time seem to be long gone.  And I only sort of miss them. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Powerful marketing: yarn and toy edition

The goal of marketing is to make a Thing look cool enough to buy, and the downfall of we crafty types is that it's not hard to make yarny things look super cool.

In fact, just the other day I was talking to Marie - Marie does not knit - and she told me that her screensaver is a photograph of yarn.  Taken at Lettuce Knit.  Which she likes in spite of not knitting because it's so cool there.

And to further my argument, let's look at this promotional video for Wabi Sabi in Ottawa, Ontario - aka the yarn store I didn't get to go to the last two times I was in Ottawa, a fact which might now crush me absolutely:

So.  Have we established that marketing is powerful and we must forgive ourselves for succumbing to it?

Because even in this new age of Me Getting Rid Of Stuff, I have succumbed in the most awful way to Playmobil.  Yes, you read that right.

What happened was, I was in a store over the weekend that sells toys, and I saw a display of little Playmobil figurine grab bag pouches.  Usually when I see those there is one box, but this time there were two, and the new one was pink.  Three guesses which category of children (or childlike persons) was the target of Box Number New.

On the front of the box, in a long string, was pictured all the possible figurines which might be contained in the packet you selected and - I don't know why - I was overcome.  I bought three.

First I got the ballerina.

Then I got a feisty ancient Egyptian girl.

I am pretty sure she's using that feathery thing as the equivalent of two fingers behind Ballerina's head, and not as a threat.

And finally, though at first glance into the grab bag I thought the long black skirt inside indicated the vampire...

... the little Dutch, or possibly Lithuanian? girl showed up.

I shouldn't really want to play with these toys, should I.

But I do anyway, and furthermore I want most of the rest of the set.  I can do without the cheerleader and the Lara Croft lookalike, but - yeah.  I know I'll be buying more. (hey, at least they're little.)

Hope you had a great weekend.  If not (or even if so), perhaps you would like to make a fresh start to the week with this image in your head?

The lake the morning after a storm.  YUM.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A tea towel holder, and a coffee fix

Having mice use my cottage's original oven as a port-a-potty last winter was a blessing in disguise, because it justified buying a new stove with a handle you could flip a tea towel over for drying.  (Yes, I realize a new stove is an extravagant solution to this problem, but I'm a creature of habit as well as not very sensible sometimes.)

However: flipping a tea towel over the handle of an oven = dropping a tea towel onto the floor, if the handle is new and slippery and you aren't paying attention. (Yes, that's another clue about my nature.)

Of course one can always crochet or knit or sew a strap onto an attractive tea or hand towel and button it semi-permanently onto the handle, but I wanted a faster, more versatile solution, so I came up with this:

Sorry for the camera flash - inevitable - and the curling, which is the result of this little holder having been tested and found to work well.

The bottom line is, you cut a square from a pretty fabric, fold it in half, lay down some ties to secure into the seam, and stitch around all but a little gap for turning inside out again.  Then topstitch to secure the turn-around gap.  You can do something pretty with the ends of the ties, or make the ties themselves pretty, or you can just use twill tape like I did and tie knots in the end. 

Then: whooo hoooo! tie it onto the handle.

And finally, slip your tea towel - any old tea towel - through the loop.

The towel won't dry as fast as if it were spread out over the handle, but it also won't fall on the floor.  I don't know which matters more to you but I sure know what matters more to me!

* * * * *

Speaking of mattering...

Some people who come to a cottage get a little freaked out at the thought of being 'away from it all', 'all' being 'a reliable source of coffee'.  I spent a long time trying to come up with a solution to this problem because people who drink coffee tend to get a little crabby if they are offered tea in the mornings instead, even if it is really really good tea. 

There were really two branches to the problem:

1/ everybody I know seems to like different kinds of coffee, from different coffee shops

2/ nobody I know wants to drink an entire pot of coffee on their own.

There's a third issue too which is that French Press or other easy real-coffee solutions (with their adorable crafting potential, sigh) weren't going to cut it because Pete, aka the primary cottage coffee consumer, says he just doesn't like that stuff.

So here is what I came up with, and according to the coffee fans around me the coffee is way better than instant and an acceptable step down from coffeeshop fare:

It's a Keurig coffeemaker paired with my vintage Lustroware canister set.  I used to use the canisters for flour and sugar etc, but I switched to stainless steel a few years ago and also: I really want lots of red in the cottage kitchen.  (green counters: you are new and highly functional and quite an attractive shade of green and all, but your days are numbered anyway.  sorry.)

Turns out the canisters are great for storing all the different flavours of K-Cups for the coffeemaker.

Ain't life grand?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The winner! and other bits and pieces

I'm so happy that even at the end of the blog tour for Leslie Ann Bestor's Cast On, Bind Off, so many people were excited about this book.  As The Knit Girllls' podcast explained, there is a Kindle version as well that lets you enlarge pictures for an added bonus, so if you didn't win a copy here or at another blog on the tour, you can definitely go that route.  Or just buy yourself a copy - it's priced pretty affordably!

All that said: the random number generator I used deems the winner to be

Commenter Number 22

aka Rainlover, to whom I have sent an e-mail via her Blogger profile.  Congrats Rainlover! and sympathy to everybody else... so nice to have you all come by and hang out, especially if you hadn't been here before.

* * * * *

I'm just going to fill up the rest of today's post with randomness, some of which will be knitting because OH MY GOODNESS is the end of the Olympics coming super fast or what.  I am so doomed in my goal to get two twined mitts done in the next, what, 11 days? but more on that later.

* * * * *

Speaking of doomed: while twining last night I watched a documentary on the sinking of a ferry in 1994, with commentary by survivors, and quite apart from the horror of what they and their fellow passengers went through I was struck by the reality of how much tenacity and focus was necessary to be a survivor.  Especially since what I watched before that was Kiki's Delivery Service.  Either way: lucky to be twining some mittens on a nice warm dry sofa.

* * * * *

I can't remember what led me to look up what Fran Drescher has been up to lately but I did land on her site, Cancer Schmancer, and wanted to recommend a visit if you haven't already stumbled across it.  There are great tips for detoxing your home and checking up on the safety of the cosmetics you use every day, but also: a host of cheat sheets to help you stay informed about cancer symptoms and catch it early.

* * * * *

Thinking something cheery would be good about now?  Check out this video of a spinner working with angora directly from the cuddly bunny on her knee.  I mean really.  If that isn't enough to make you want to learn to spin, what is?

* * * * *

I know you're wondering how far I got on my mitten yesterday, so here you go:

Yes.  That's possibly 2 inches longer, but I doubt it.  In fact I sort of measured and it looks like I'm getting 11 or 12 rounds to an inch, which is just...

.... really really slow.

I'm fighting the thought in the back of my mind which is that I could probably pair the very nice square needles that are sitting unused on my desk with the very nice handspun I made specifically for this project and finish those mittens by the end of the Olympics, even if I only start today.  But a deal's a deal.  right?  gaaaahh

(the mittens will be beautiful.  it is totally going to be worth it.  also: I'm almost all the way to the thumb on this one, which reminds me: must find holders, or 'waste' yarn for tying off those stitches later.)

Okay: end of random.  I'm off to do many productive things none of which will be knitting probably but we can hope.  See you tomorrow! sometime, not sure when.  Have a great, just downright fabulous day, 'kay?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The 'make or break' report

Today's crafty talk begins with the view from my cottage bedroom window:

Isn't it stunning? 

In just this patch of trees I have been plotting to move the cottage's collection of cheery wood outdoor chairs for lounging and visiting, and then to string up bunting made from triangles of my favourite scraps of fabric.  Possibly even freshly-bought indoor-outdoor fabric so I only have to sew it once.  Wouldn't that be amazing and even a little magical?

Well, maybe magical isn't the word.  Closer look:

Maybe what I mean is 'highly dangerous'.

I know without scale it's hard to think how big this damaged branch is, but try this view of the actual break:

And this one of the length of the broken limb:


(I already booked the tree guy.)

In cheerier news, lookit the cushion I made for the pine bench in the cottage living room!

It doesn't add any comfort as such - the bench is actually amazing without any supplementary squish owing to perfect carving - but it does keep the finish from melting under your legs on a hot day. 

Plus: so easy and fast.  I bought some quilt batting and just layered it to make a token cushion depth, then sewed a casing around it.

What I'm really proud of is the fix I came up with when I realized I didn't have any coordinating ties and didn't feel like making any from the cushion fabric:

That's right, I just did a decorative stitch in coordinating thread over the ties I did have.  Sometimes I really love my brain, you know?  Makes up a little bit for the less stellar crafty moments.

Hope all is well in your life today and that I see you tomorrow for the Great Reveal of who wins the copy of Cast On, Bind Off