Friday, November 30, 2012

Weaving is my friend again

I am telling you: this business of making stuff for everybody on my Christmas list is so much not as nice as making stuff for just a few people and buying perfectly nice things for everybody else.  Plus, the few things for those few people are starting to come out a bit better since I gave up my original plan.

Here is a terrible photograph of the scarf I've been weaving for approximately forever:

What does show up well is the short bursts of colour - it's almost like a Santa Fe print or woodgrain, don't you think? - which would have been super strangely pooled had I just done a plain knit with this yarn. 

Another positive is what I learned about how to keep the weave tighter.  Here is an up-close shot of the fabric I made, complete with a noticeable patch where the black Malabrigo yarn folded itself sideways and kind of squashed as it crossed the warp:

See how the colour part is sort of vertical?  That's because I used a very fine heddle to match the pretty fine warping yarn.  Each of those colour strands is a rectangle because they're too close together for the black yarn to get pushed down enough for squares.

With the current scarf, I switched to a heddle with fewer openings placed a bit further apart:

This time, even though the warping yarn is finer still, I'm getting horizontal rectangles.  It's a more rustic look and one that reminds me a lot of the runner I love on my dresser at the cottage.

(again, sorry for the awful pictures: we're back into grey skies again here.)

I don't know whether this scarf is going to come out looking the way I hoped, but I do know that the one I took off the loom to make way for it almost does.  It's got the denser weave I was going for after the disaster of the very loosely woven black and blue scarf, and I like the way the colours have blended, and the sides are mostly even - enough to pass muster, anyway.  The only problem:

Yeah.  That happened just a few passes before I ran out of black yarn and tied off the scarf, but I didn't notice it till I was tying the fringe.  Couldn't you just cry?  Here it is on the reverse:

To me, in the midst of no other mistakes, it's glaringly obvious.  However, I do have a fix.  It's so close to the end and the side, it's a logical place to stitch a 'label' that covers up the error.  And after a day of trying to think of the nearest source of black twill tape for the purpose, I remembered I have a drawerful of black felted wool sweater scraps I could easily cut into a cool-looking rectangle.  No need to serge the ends, either.  Go me!

Now that's what I call making a mistake a design feature.

Mini book review

I wanted to mention that the current scarf is going pretty fast because I've been entertaining myself with an audiobook of The Night Circus while I work on it.

There seems to be a fair bit of buzz on this book, mainly for its highly magical, imaginative writing.  I could spend a month with a cereal box whose copy was beautifully written - I don't care about plot if the writer's voice is only strong and compelling enough - but I did hesitate over reviews that said it had no plot to speak of and/or nothing happens in it.  Then I thought: if I'm weaving, I don't care what happens as long as the words are good and the narrator is not terrible.

Guess what?  The narrator is fantastic, and something is always happening.  It's not big adventure every minute, but it's always something, and the somethings are building, and I'm enjoying the story very much.  Highly recommended if you find yourself in need of such a distraction.

And now, go on and have a fabulous weekend.  I will be here weaving and maybe even finishing a pair of socks I'm not giving away, thanks to the miracle of not trying to make something for every single person I like.  I hope you get to go easy on yourself too!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Still loving the stripey socks

I was reading yesterday about the burden of unnecessary guilt and stress we take on when we associate tasks with the idea that we should do them.  Obviously sometimes that's smart: you should definitely look for speeding cement trucks before plunging into the road, for example.  But constantly torturing yourself with goals whose purpose will soon be vague to you, or which are not as urgent as you are telling yourself they are, is less than ideal.  In fact, putting those 'shoulds' into perspective is what you really should be doing.

(see what I did there? heh.)

Anyway because I am a compulsive knitting type person I wasn't thinking as I read this nugget of wisdom about how it applies to my philosophies on the way our brains work or how I could be a better, happier person.

Instead I was thinking

HA, I knew I was right to knit a whole lotta stripey sock even though Christmas is coming!

You knew I cast these on last week, right?

This is the travel sock.  I can't believe I got them up to the same advanced place within about five days of starting them.  It looks like a lot of Not Doing What I Should, doesn't it.  But actually it's the result of doing something I not only should have done, but wanted to do (love it when those things match up): taking transit out to see my aunt's new digs.  Half an hour each way on one bus, plus about 20 minutes on the subway each way, and then a little down time here and there... I made so much progress.

Over the weekend I was doing more or less Should things but I still managed to sneak in some sock time, and both of them got a bit farther.

As of now though,

The travel sock is winning.  Big time.  In spite of walking around a ton lately I did get myself onto public transit a couple of times this week, and also, I hung out for some knitting time with Trish.  Amazing how just a little adds up, isn't it?

Today we're back to the Shoulds because WHOA, I've only got two weeks left to do pretty much all the gift crafting!  (how did that happen? surely the stripey socks didn't cause time to speed up?) Thanks to the miracle of audiobooks, however, there's also some Wanna in there.  Phew, because you know, I can only be a virtuous crafty person for so many hours in the day.

Hope you find lots of good Shoulds today yourself - see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Cinnamon toast socks: handknit, footwarm

This past Sunday I woke up and staggered to the bathroom where I was pretty sure I spotted white on my neighbour's roof through the window.  A little later, bleary at my desk by a different window, I noticed the garage was a little whiter than normal too.  Eventually I looked out the front window and saw that yes.  Snow was falling.  And sticking.  And then I understood why my toes were so very cold.

(this is what happens when you live in a house built before the discovery of insulation.)

So I spent most of the day inside, dressed in many layers and padding around in my cinnamon toast socks, which were knit in the always-warm-enough Stoddart Family Farm romney/mohair blend.

I love the comfyness of these socks so much,

even though I ran out of the cinnamon colourway just before I did the toes such that I had to stripe them orange at the end.

Actually that isn't the whole truthI finished these socks and then knit the orange ones with cinnamon stripes to ensure they were long enough, not realizing that I hadn't bothered trying these on before grafting the toes shut.  Turns out I'd knit them about four rounds too short and what still remained of the yarn was not sufficient to reach the toes.

Isn't it lucky I have so very very much of this yarn?

Please accept my very best wishes for an equally warm and happy day.  See you again tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The weather outside is hat-worthy

I feel like one of those squirrels who spent the entire summer stashing nuts and forgetting to stash the pretzels to go with.  What was I thinking, knitting endless cold-weather socks and not a single cold-weather hat?

I've been trying to correct that, with mixed results.  The focus, of course, is on the handspun yarn I used for my warmer twined mitts (which turn out to be Warm Enough, whew), so as to be matchy.  And equally of course, I started with a twined attempt.

I used the same braid stitch from the mittens:

and planned to pair it with some very bulky black wool I've had kicking around for about five years.

It did occur to me that the contrast in weight might be a problem, but the more pressing issue was that after getting through the entire hat band, I realized the twining was giving me a hat with a 16" diameter.

You know what's hard?  Ripping out two inches of fingering-weight twined knitting.  Especially if you used a grabby yarn.

Returning to the drawing board, I started knitting a very long strip of plain ol' garter stitch.  Along the way I could see I was going to have uneven margins at either side - hello, joy of handspun - but I decided that would make a good design feature because there is no way I want to have to rip this hat out again.

When the strip was long enough to go around my head I decreased to make an angled finish, and handstitched it in place before running blanket stitch all around what was to be the hat-end of the strip in more of the same handspun.  I kept the blanket stitch pretty loose figuring I was going to be picking up each of those stitches with the very bulky black yarn.  But when I'd done that I realized I was back to problem number one, because it turned out I'd only made 60 blanket stitches and I don't care how bulky your yarn is, you are not going to get 23" out of 60 stitches on 4mm needles.

Note that I offer no picture of this stage.  It was about 11pm when I did my calculations, and rather than being sensible and waiting for morning to call Trish and borrow larger double pointed needles I opted for ripping out again and picking up with more of the handspun.

Right now, the hat looks like this:

as in, kinda messy.  And a little short on yarn (I have another ball a little bigger than the one pictured here, and then I'm done.  Time to do some stash-diving.)  I'm not sure if this will come out all right or not, because I'm mostly winging the design.  And by 'mostly', I mean entirely.

Speaking of design, I thought it would be cool if the middle of the forehead part was a bit longer than the rest of the brim.

I have a strong feeling that I will either regret this horribly or love it madly, rather than just being happy to put a warm thing on my head of a cold morning.

And that's how some of us react to sudden drops in temperature and crunchy snow on the ground around these parts, my friends.  I hope you're having a much more sensible day and I'll see you tomorrow, when I will have something pretty and comforting to show you (one way or another!)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Cheating at knitting

Quiz time:

When Pete saw this yarn on the kitchen counter a couple of weeks ago,

he said

a/ "For some reason I'm suddenly craving borscht."

b/ "You're storing yarn in here now?"

c/ "Hey, when did you get this?  It's such a great colour!"

d/ "So, now that you have enough yarn to insulate the garage, what days do you have free for me to help out with that?"

If you said c/, I hope you are as surprised as I was.  I was really expecting to hear something more sensible like, "I thought you said you were done buying yarn" uttered in stern and disapproving tones (even though I never said that and can't imagine doing so in future.)

As it happens, the yarn wasn't mine.  I had to tell him that Jill had picked it out and it was on my counter instead of hers because I was going to start a hat for her.


Starting somebody else's hat sounds a bit like kicking a golf ball into the hole instead of putting it in, but to me it seems eminently logical.

See, last time Jill and I were in a yarn store together, she told me she hopes someday to make herself a hat.  She's been knitting approximately 6.2 zillion scarves for other people since learning to knit this fall and it's likely to be a lot colder here before it gets warmer again, so I think this is a very fair wish.  She should totally take the time out to make herself a hat.  She saw that skein of purple Malabrigo worsted and wished she could use that for the job and I encouraged her to go for it. 

Meanwhile, I've been hoping to solve the problem of the perfect hat shape on the perfect hat band stitch.  Much like somebody who is knitting a small army of scarves wouldn't have time for a hat, I don't have time to make all of the hat parts I'm obsessing over.  Well, I have time to make the parts, I just hate not having them turn into something productive when I'm done said parts.

So after Jill decided to go for the skein of yarn, I encouraged her to buy a circular needle to go with it.

Some time after Pete spotted the skein on the counter, I took it down to the ball winder and caked it.  And then because I knew the weather was going to turn really cold over the weekend (and hoo boy, it did), I spent Friday night swatching and casting on and knitting the band of Jill's hat.

The colour is too variegated to show off the stitch I chose but I don't care and I hope she doesn't either.  It's meant to be functional, with decorative being a bonus.

I also don't care that the colours seem to be at the start of a spiral pooling effect; the only way to avoid that sort of thing is with a mix-it-up stitch, and Jill would prefer just to knit at this stage.  Plus, she loves this yarn so it will automatically be lovely no matter what.  I'm sure the spiral will make for a great design feature.

Anyway: it's out of my house now and over at Jill's being knit between scarves.  I'll keep you posted on how our tag-team knitting cheat goes.

As for me, I have moved on to knitting my own new hat... but more on all of those adventures tomorrow!  (yep... it's another one of those projects.)  In the meantime I hope you have a wonderful Monday with no freezing in it.  Because where I am, it's just so much brrrrrrr.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Perfect Day

This seems like the right time to share my photo essay on a perfect day in summer.  These pictures were all taken at the O'Hara Mill, near Madoc, Ontario - it dates back I think as far as 1850 - and if you're in the area, you don't need me to tell you it's very pretty there.

I was there before its operating hours had begun, so it was peaceful and quiet (and just enough buggy even in open areas for me to feel a whole lotta compassion for the people who lived and worked here in the time before our current arsenal of insect repellent. owie owie!)

Everything about that particular morning reminded me of every perfect sunny day from my childhood summers.  I hope it brings some of yours back too. 

That scarecrow a few pictures along waved at me after I took her picture - just a gentle breeze, but endearing all the same.

Have a wonderful weekend and I'll see you on Monday, with knitting!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

How are the new socks? how nice of you to ask

It's funny how, in spite of my best efforts, I keep defaulting back to the joyously easy knitting of socks.

Perhaps it is the joyously easy nature of wearing handknit socks.  I've been walking pretty fair distances every day this fall, training hard for the marathon walks I'll be doing in Italy next spring, and mostly I'm wearing my handknit socks to do it.

But last Saturday I discovered that my new weird tights (I pictured them a few weeks ago - one has an assymetrical pattern of stripes, the other a colourblock design in grey, red, and black) look fantastic with a knee-length dress and my ankle-high rainboots.  Since the rainboots are one of the two footwear choices I find best for walking without hurting my knee, I've been doing a lot of dress/tights/boots combinations and here is what I have discovered:

1/  I'm getting awfully close to 50 for a girl who still thinks colourblock tights and floaty dresses and ankle boots are a good idea; and

2/  those seams on the toes of machine-knit socks and tights get really hurty after a while.

Another thought occurred to me after I'd been over at Trish's working on my travel sock:

I was once again trying to persuade her that socks are awesome to knit and she was once again telling me that socks drive her crazy, and I was still reflecting on this on my way home when it occurred to me that Trish had been knitting a cowl for somebody else.  In fact, practically everything Trish knits is for somebody else.  She is pretty much the queen of gift knitting, and she doesn't even wait till special occasions beyond, say, You looked cold yesterday or This colour reminded me of you.

(you may at this point feel that Trish is a very nice person indeed and you would be right; she is.)

Now, when you are a selfish yet prolific knitter like me, you quickly realize that you cannot knit another cowl or hat or scarf or shawl because you simply can't wear that many of them.  Socks on the other hand - you wear those every day, and then you need to wash them so they're taken out of circulation while they dry.  Sock knitting projects are practical in a situation like that.

If on the other hand you have a constant and widespread demand for cowls and hats and lace scarves, you can knit them to your heart's content and never question whether you could get away with layering two hats today just so the other one doesn't get any dustier waiting for its turn to go out.

Come to think of it, now that she knows how to knit, Jill is also knitting a ton of things for people other than herself.  H'mmmmm.

(but if I emulate their niceness, how can I also have socks?  and I loooove socks so much.  I think selfish is the right choice for me.)

My Secret Sorrow

I'm kidding, I keep no knitting secrets.

I started the cast on for both of these socks super carefully so the stripes would line up but one had a longer tail and I foolishly went ahead knitting that one's cuff before I started the other, only to find that


The tail I'd left for it was just long enough for all the stitches plus being knit into the first three of the first row.  That's why that one has a safety pin marking the cuff in the picture up there: it's where the tail would have been.  Except I don't really need it to remind me where the start of the round is because


now that I'm well into the socks and would cry if I had to rip them out, the teeny tiny tail is working its way loose from the ribbing where I attempted to run it in.  I think I'm going to have to take drastic measures like, I don't know... handstitch it in place, with thread? 

At least the Home Sock is looking lovely.

ahhhhh, how happy I am to be knitting these stripes.

And how happy I am to wish all my American friends a superfabulous Thanksgiving.  May your feasts be delicious and your shopping, more so!

(I'm coming back again tomorrow, since we Canadians don't have a holiday, but I kinda doubt anybody else will.  I wouldn't either if I was doing Black Friday stuff.  Priorities, people.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Weaving: remind me again why I started?

So, weaving backstory (or rather update, for those who have been reading Hugs for a while):  I acquired a loom thinking I'd use up a lot of yarn faster, then discovered having it just made me want to acquire more yarn.  Fast.

Eye candy alert:

New Discoveries

1/ Weaving with the Ashford Knitter's Loom really is most convenient when sitting at a table, no matter how appealing it is to think of collapsing into a comfy chair and using pillows to prop up the back end of the loom.

2/ I'm pretty sure I will never be so adept at weaving as to not need to look at what I'm doing.  I may eventually be able to stop checking that I've got the sides coming in without huge gaping loops hanging off them, or that I've run the yarn across without accidentally going the wrong way over or under the warping threads, but it looks like you always have to look when you're beating that yarn into the correct position.  And the rows go so fast, you're always looking at that.  All of which adds up to Time To Acquire Audiobooks.  Because for some reason I do not have a lineup of people who want to sit and entertain me while I sit at a loom.

3/ That whole 'leave space between the yarns for them to grow when blocking' thing appears not to apply to superwash yarn.

or to put it another way,


Today's Happy Story

I cut the fringes off my first three scarves on the weekend, right after they'd finished drying from their first big block.

I started like this:

and ended like this:

How did I ever survive without a rotary cutter?

Here is the sequence of pretty pictures (weaving first, then fringes):

Today's Tale of Woe

You can leave now if this sort of thing upsets your day.

It's about the blue and black scarf, people.  This is the only one I set up with the intention to give it to a specific person who has been especially kind and helpful to me.  It's the one I want to not mess up.  And guess what?  It is so messed up.

Here it is on the loom looking halfway normal:

And here it is with a more obvious example of why it's not.  It's not possible in this shot to see the black loops on either side where I left the weaving too loose, or the place where I missed some threads, but it is clear, I think, that I just could not get the yarns to snug up close enough:

Off the loom, it looks nice and drapey:

Except for when it shows off that missed thread:

(hint: it's the darkish line on the left; not so stark here, but in person? oh yes. and let's not forget the prominent black loops along the whole side here.)

I'm not sure what the issue is, but I suspect it's the combination of very fine laceweight with sport weight in a contrasting colour.  This does not bode well for my next few project ideas, to say nothing of what's on the loom at this very moment. Which is, in case you were wondering, fingering weight with more of the same black sport weight.

So, that's what I'm facing today... or rather, avoiding: weaving as fast as I can on the current scarf so as to have time to make a replacement for the blue and black one.  In spite of having a new Audiobook (more on that another day) I will be working on... I don't know... socks?

Have a great day yourself, and I'll see you tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Something else I finished knitting

Man, this place is just a hive of finished-object activity, isn't it?  If only that could last.  Still, I think you will be pleased to know that I finished my Experiment Socks! because it means you can stop hearing about them.

All ready for Christmas after just three years of waiting (well, maybe it's only two the yarn has been sitting in the cupboard.  still.)  The final tally is 17 days of knitting, way down from my usual investment of 2 months.  Go me.

As always: they feel great and the colours are happy skippy jumpy.  Knitterly Things' Vesper Sock Yarn, folks.  Check it out on the Yarns tab; if you like to knit socks or think you'd like to try, you will not be sorry.  I first succumbed on the strength of a photograph in Interweave Knits, back when I still thought it was silly to knit socks.  HA! how wrong I was.

I mean, how else do you get strangers to talk to you on the subway, if not by knitting bright cheery socks while not looking once at your needles?  Seriously, I met a really nice man last week whose grandmother taught him to crochet.  And you know what, I never get tired of hearing from nice men that their grandmothers knit and what they remember those women making.  I love that having a grandparent who made stuff stands out so much in a grownup's memory of him or her, and comes rushing back when said grownup sees a stranger knitting a sock on the subway.  It's like I'm performing a community service while selfishly knitting more socks for me.

You may or may not have noticed something interesting about these socks.

The stripes line up.  Perfectly.  This has never happened to me before - usually I end up about two rows off colour by the time I get to the toe - and I'm taking it as a sign that this year, Christmas will be my idea of perfect.  (which will be easier to achieve if I adapt my idea of perfection to whatever actually occurs, and as it occurs.)

Of course, you know that once one pair of socks is off my sock needles, another pair has to go on, immediately, lest I get caught without travel knitting.

Isn't it lucky I had another skein of Vesper Sock in mostly-Christmas colours?

Thanks for sticking with me through the Experiment - see you tomorrow!