Friday, August 30, 2013

The make do and mend socks

This post can do for Your Weekly Heartbreak, even though it starts out as a victory-over-yarn-substitution tale.

Remember our last Weekly Heartbreak, when I couldn't knit the socks I wanted because I'd gone off to the cottage with incompatible yarn weights?  (isn't it nice to have first world problems?)  Well, I found some fabulous purple yarn in my stash that is only slightly heavier than the companion yarns I'd allocated for the next pair.

And they look nice together, yay!

I started knitting these on my road trip to the Niagara region, which is jam packed (ha, Greaves jam reference) with history, and I couldn't help thinking how I was doing something those long-ago women did in this region that people still do today: make do and mend.  Which is to say, make do with the materials at hand, and take time to prettify the work no matter how humble those materials might be.

Not that these materials are humble in themselves... just in their quantity.  I was eking them out as I went along, trying to make a whole sock out of not enough of any one colour and making it look like it was done on purpose because green and blue and purple stripe so well.

I think it works, don't you?

Fortunately there have been enough car trips since then to make serious headway on the socks, which is more Yay.

But unfortunately...

... some of the headway happened at night, after dark, in a moving car with enough erratic traffic around that me putting on a little knitting light was unwelcome.

So when I got home, I discovered THIS.

Need a closeup?


Not one but two dropped stitches, all the way back at the gusset!  And I brought it on myself with that 'and mend' nonsense.  Couldn't I just have dubbed these the Make Do socks??

So now if you will excuse me, I need to go do some ripping out.  I guess it's still better than the Basement Tidy, but not by much... and I still have to do more Basement Tidy today on top of the ripping.

Heart. Break.

Have a good weekend, and send good sock thoughts my way, and I will see you again on Monday! which is a holiday here in Canada, because we need one obviously, heh.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Floral arrangements and knitting picnics

Last week I hit the road with some friends for an out-of-town picnic, and brought knitting.  It was fabulous, all of it.

I took pictures for the happiness project in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which is a very pretty town in southern Ontario you should really visit some time if you haven't already.

This is one of the less breathtaking floral arrangements that run along the streets there - the Niagara region in general allocates some serious budget to some seriously amazing landscapers.

This one is private though - it's alongside the door of Greaves, purveyors of suuuuch delicious jam.  I love that stuff so much.  And you can find anything jammy in there.  A couple of years ago I got obsessed with finding lime marmalade (only ever having known the orange variety) and had a terrible time.  Turns out Greaves makes it, and lemon marmalade too.

In Niagara-on-the-Lake there are many very expensive shops, a very good theatre, pantloads of lovely accommodations, and tremendous parks (one of which runs alongside Lake Ontario.)

Also: fudge.  The fact that the fudge gets its own paragraph tells you how fabulous it is.  In fact I have ordered this fudge from out of town for similarly out of town Christmas present deliveries, it is so good.

I did not have fudge on this trip because I'm getting a little paranoid about sugar consumption, but I do want to tell you about the picnic part (which was in not-particularly-nearby Port Colborne) because I'm not sure I've shared this tip here.

See that pretty cloth on the park's picnic table?  It's a twin-sized fitted sheet I bought at a charity shop for less than a dollar, and I always carry it with me for dining out like this.  You just pop it over the table and not only can you overlook any burn marks or annotations of teen romance, you can rest easy in the knowledge it wont' blow away.  Because it's fitted, see? and the elastic at the corners holds it in place.  On the right there you can see how the sheet is billowing up a bit, but that's as bad as it gets. 

Sadly I am not going on any sort of outing today: instead, it's basement-land again.  Hope you're not stuck with anything so mundane or that if you are, the flower pictures cheer you up too.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

End of summer knitting

It just isn't summer without a patch of peaceful knitting in it, don't you think?

Knitting in summer is special because it's so indulgent.  Knitting in the fall or winter is just natural - it's cold enough outside for hats and mitts, gift-giving opportunities abound, and the bright colours in your hands are just cheerful.  Once the warmer weather hits, it can be harder to justify knitting your tenth pair of subzero-friendly socks.

(unless you're me, in which case the problem is that it's harder to walk away from a teetering stack of papers you know will make an even bigger mess if you're not there to keep them upright.)

Still: summer.  In summer people are supposed to take a few breaks here and there, not head down to their basements and spend two months clearing out five years' worth of Stuff.  Blech.

And here we are with just a few days left of August... and the basement still not done, in case you were wondering.  Maybe I should accept that it will never really be done, but I was hoping for more than two days of clear space in there, even after all the other spaces get tidy.

Technically summer doesn't end when August does, but my summers always do: 18 years of it during my formative years have trained me so well I've never been able to leave the academic schedule behind.  I still see the first school day of September as the first day of my own new year and that means any mindful summer knitting I'm going to get has to happen now.

So: yay for the cottage, where I can't overhaul the basement even if I want to!

When you go downstairs at the cottage, you're heading to the forest path to the lake.  And while there are all kinds of things down there, they are very much meant to stay, even if it's only briefly, as with mushrooms.  So. Many. Mushrooms.  And some of them are very pretty.  I should be taking pictures of them, shouldn't I.

Lots of other little flowering bits and flying things too, which makes this other little bag from tinyhappy the ideal thing to knit from while I am cottaging and the perfect reminder of all those little plants while I am not.

What about you?  What does your end of summer knitting look like?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The socks of perfect stripe

There are five pairs of socks on the go at my house, and this is one of them:

Originally these were my Rainbow Socks but now I think they really have to be Perfect Socks, don't you?

It's the stripes.  Even at the heel, they are perfect.

So cute!

I am also enjoying the bag they've been traveling around in - it's another from tinyhappy, aka my go-to source of very pretty knitting bags.

Not least because I didn't have to crochet this little doily in thread just to be able to gaze contentedly upon it.  I also didn't have to make this stitch marker, another of my favourites - it was a gift from a friend.

Rainbow colours!  The perfect match.

This is a very good thing about knitting: it's not impossible for it to be the one thing that goes right in your day (even though some days, it's the thing that's going horribly wrong.)  Hope yours is going right today, too!

Monday, August 26, 2013

How to paper a box to cute up your cupboards

Yay for scrapbook paper: is there anything it can't do?

It can even give a girl a break from clearing out kitchen cupboards to do some totally legitimate crafting (not that there is any other kind, of course) and resolve some space issues at the same time.  Want some cute storage boxes for your cupboards too?

You will need

An empty cracker, cookie, or cereal box in the size of your choice

Lightweight patterned scrapbook paper (for easier folding around corners)

Either a steady hand and scissors, or a cutting mat and a rotary cutter

A ruler bigger than the longest side of your paper

Clear tape

How to proceed

First, decide which side of your box you want for the opening, and cut it away.  If necessary, tape the remaining walls of the box for stability.  Then measure and cut strips of scrapbook paper to cover the sides.  Don't worry about the bottom: it won't show!

Next, tape the paper neatly to the box, ensuring that each paper strip is centered over the side that will be on display for a neater look.

Fill the box with the contents of your choice and tuck it into your cupboard.


I gotta say, I love the boxes on the outside of cookies and crackers.  You may have read how I put them to use as shallow drawer organizers last fall, and now I am using more to separate hair accessories from bug cream along the front end of my deep dresser drawer at the cottage - same kinds of boxes, just cut for depth rather than length.

This particular box frees up extra space in my cupboard, because it's a bit smaller than the one the oatmeal comes in.  You know that whole "sold by volume, contents may settle" thing on the side of food boxes?  Well, once that food has settled, I'm very happy to tuck it into a box that matches its new size.

And the idea is great for more than food.  After I did this box, I covered an empty bulk-sized box of Rice Krispie Squares (yum) for stashing my microfiber cleaning cloths.  The paper I had couldn't cover all the way around that big box, but it doesn't show where it counts and it is so much more cheerful to start cleaning now.

So: twenty minutes well spent.  I bet a box like this would look fantastic in a yarn cupboard too, don't you?

Friday, August 23, 2013

The happiness project

Happy Friday!

It only takes a moment to make progress with my new project, which is lucky for me because that's all I have this morning, heh.

I got the idea to do this as I've been overhauling my house all summer, shedding all the clutter and unnecessary things, clearing away the distractions to get at what matters both quickly and easily.  And as I worked through the boxes and cupboards and shelves, it struck me: how great an approach to life is that?

So I've decided among other things to stop and smell the flowers mindfully, one way or another, at least once a day.  As I can, I'll capture the happiness with my camera - that way I can enjoy the same moment later in the day too.  And of course, I'll share any photographs with you here at Hugs.

My first is that Welcome sign, from the cottage.  I don't know who gave it to my aunt and uncle, but they chose to hang it on the outside so that you see it every time you come up the stairs to the deck from the lake.  In the winter, it comes inside to wait for another season to welcome all who pass through.  It's such a small thing to be so big.

I hope something makes you happy today (and all weekend too) till I see you again Monday.  And if it's knitting, so much the better!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Your weekly knitting heartbreak

So: because I am practically finished a Thing I still have to take pictures of because you will. not. believe. it, I took those Stoddart boot socks that Toffee liked on a drive to the cottage last weekend.  Since they were nearly done, I knew they wouldn't last long enough for the drive home, and I was right:

yay boot socks!

and even more yay new boot socks!

I was sooooo excited to cast these ones on, not least because they are a different colour than orange and yellow.  I feel like I've been knitting orange and yellow for approximately ever, even though that is probably not true.

Well, I did a round of green for the top of the ribbing, and then I started with the variegated bluey purple for the rest of the cuff, and I noticed something.

Can you see what I mean?

It's so subtle, I almost couldn't see it myself, but boy, when you're knitting, can you ever feel it.  The yarn I had chosen for the main colour is not boot weight.  It's lighter, by just enough to not make any sense at all to pursue with the boot blue or the boot green.  So I had to put my dreams of Stoddart knitting away for the rest of the weekend.

Oh, the heartbreak.

In good news, the home stash yielded a suitable substitute and as a result of the tragedy I made a lot of headway on the Vesper socks I'd brought along Just In Case, which underscores how important it is always to bring more knitting with you than you think you will need.

Isn't it sad that the same rule doesn't quite apply for keeping more yarn in your house than you know you will need?

Best not to think about it, isn't it.

If I get time today, I will try to photograph that project I mentioned, to show you tomorrow.  Seriously, you will fall over when you see it, especially if you are me, although really in my case it was more a question of retrieving my jaw from the floor.

Meanwhile: take care and happy knitting!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A sock for Toffee

I treated myself to some of my favourite late-summer in-car knitting last week:

There is something about square needles and Stoddart romney/mohair yarn that is endlessly comforting to me, and because all the stuff I have is DK or heavier I can make a ton of progress in one journey.

There was a slight complication this time though, because I had brought Toffee along for the ride.

That's him in the upper left corner, seemingly oblivious to what I was doing.  Not the case.

Yes, Toffee, it's very nice, isn't it?

Well, I wouldn't say that's exactly how you're supposed to wear it, no.

Toffee, it's a sock.  And your feet are tiny little stumps.  Trust me, this is a sock.  For me.

Sigh.  Does make me think I should need a pair of these things for somebody else sometime, though.  A human I mean.  If only I weren't on the running out of Stoddart yarn.  Do you think I should... buy more?

(don't answer that unless you're going to say No, because I've worked so hard to get the yarn stash volume down!)

Okay, go have yourself a fabulous day while I redirect the contents of two more big boxes of Stuff.  And, erm, maybe send some protective thoughts so Toffee doesn't sneak off with my socks while I'm doing it?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Revisiting old knits

Tidying up the yarn cupboard last week meant I earned access to a sweater I stopped knitting two summers ago:

It's Deco, by Kate Davies, and if you were reading Hugs way back then, you may recall I changed sizes several times before settling on Very Much Too Small.  I made huge headway on the sweater during a glut of Harry Potter movie-watching, and then realized I was not going to fit into it, and put it aside in despair.

Recently though, I decided to get back to it and then step up the exercise till I do fit into it, even though that may be Never, because motivation is motivation.  Of course this means more Harry Potter because I always seem to associate knits with movies, and I'm hoping to get well onto the sleeves before this month is out.  Though really, the first film only gave me a couple of new inches of back, so...  I'll keep you posted.

Another part of the cleanup effort was working my way through the backup of laundry - including, happily, the knits for this coming winter that I should have washed in the spring.  Hello again, magical cowl!

Here is the most wonderful thing about the magical cowl.  You know how it's made of handspun fiber that smells amazing until you put it in a bag and take it onto a plane where you needed it to smell amazing?  Well, it turns out that when you wash it, the amazing smell comes back.

I love this cowl.

There's one more old knit I have to show you, unearthed during the reorganization of random things:

It's a baby sweater, circa the mid-1960s, and I'm not precisely sure who knit or wore it except that it wasn't me in either case.  What I do know is that it is SO CUTE.  Love, love, love this skirt stitch, and how sweet is the garter-ish border?  I'd love a cardi like this, though perhaps without quite so much skirt, and quite so much Too Small.  I have enough Too Small with the green cardi after all.

There has been a lot more knitting going on here lately, but the next installment is going to have to wait till tomorrow - possibly late tomorrow - because I shouldn't really be back at Hugs yet at all since I still haven't finished the house.  (I took stuff out of a closet yesterday that was just - whew, I don't know how I fit that much stuff into that much space, and that's a fact; another fact is that I now have to deal with all the stuff that didn't go back in.)

Take care of yourselves and if you're cleaning like me, don't get too dusty!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Knitting and craft organization: the reduction method

Hello again!  And thank you for your patience while I was doing magical things with the limited space in my house.

It's still not done, but the worst is over, and at the end of last week I was finally able to get to the yarn (aka the good part.)  And not a moment too soon! Because as you can see from the bits of leafy matter in the photo above, fall is coming.

Actually I'm kind of amazed at what I was able to accomplish over the the last three weeks, merely by giving up writing a new Hugs post every day (okay, and sleeping and also healthy eating.)  So amazed, I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about it - because it's nearly fall, and everybody talks about organizing in the fall - even Lands' End!

I love the idea of these monogrammed totes, don't you?  Not to mention the look of the storage wall they are lined up against.

Totes aside though, cooler weather coming means it's a good time to clear away the stuff you're not going to knit so you can get at the stuff you will.

Organization at home, the reduction method

This summer I made a commitment to go through every Thing in every Room in my house and deciding several things:

a/ do I need to keep this?

b/ if so, what does it need to be kept with?

c/ and what is the best place to keep it in?

As you can imagine, question a/ is the one that causes the most heartache.  A lot of what we keep is through carelessness and can be recycled or thrown out.  Or it's simply kept in the wrong place because we didn't have time to think of the right place, or didn't realize we would have enough like it to justify creating the right place.  But some of what we keep is just emotional.

Maybe it was given us by someone we love who's gone now, for whatever reason.

Maybe it was acquired at a very special time in our lives.

Maybe we invested quite a bit in acquiring it, either financially or through our own physical efforts, as with medals from marathons.

It's the emotional things that cause the trouble, I find.  It's much easier to shift a lot of shelves so that all the photo albums can be in one area and not intermingled with sports equipment, than to decide whether it's time now to part with something that serves only to jog a memory.

And surprisingly, all of that emotional undercurrent applies to knitting, sewing, and other craft supplies.  You've probably noticed it yourself, when you bought yarn just because you loved it, and even though you didn't know what you might make with it.  Or because you were on holiday and wanted a non-breakable souvenir.  Or because you were shopping with the kind of friend who is a truly horrible enabler, like me for example, and overspent.

As Trish once pointed out regarding the hazards presented by our five local French or Belgian bakeries, a treat is a treat, but when you have a treat every day, it's become a staple - and that's when things get problematic.

Well, for me, new skeins of yarn have been a staple for a good long time.

Another pitfall I've fallen into - maybe you have, too - is that the less my life resembles that of somebody with the free time and space to pursue creative inspiration, the more I devote myself to creative tasks.  It's like I think I can convince myself I am a lady of leisure if I just sew fast enough.

Either way: I've accumulated a lot of craft material over the past four years, and I needed to get rid of some of it.

How to handle craft supplies

The three questions I mentioned above don't exactly apply to textiles and tools, have you noticed?  I mean - "do I need to keep this?"  It's yarn; of course you need to keep this.  And you need to keep it with other yarn, anyplace in the house where you might want to look at yarn, which is everywhere.

Instead, try asking yourself these questions:

a/ Do I love this?  Or do I just feel like I should?

b/ For what kind of purpose am I most likely to reach for it?  Because it should go with other things that match that purpose.

c/ How much space do I need to allocate for this category of gear?  Because from now on, I'm keeping like with like, not spreading it out across several hiding places so I don't know what I have and accidentally buy more of it.

Shrinking your craft storage zones

Sometime last year, I weeded out quite a lot of felted wool from sweaters I'd sourced at Goodwill, as well as quite a lot of yarn I knew I wasn't going to need anytime soon, and packed them into vacuum shrinky bags so they would take up less space.  Then I crammed them into the three drawers of my filing cabinet (having first discarded the sorts of things a normal person would keep in a filing cabinet.)

I did this so the remaining craft supplies - not counting fabric, which lives near my sewing machine in another room because it's the only place there is space for it - would not actually fall out of the main craft storage space.  This consists of one narrow IKEA cabinet serving as primary storage for the yarns and fibers I'm digging into daily, and a wider matching one serving as secondary storage for the things I only think I might need soonish.  Oh, and also the top of these two cabinets, upon which rest baskets that had become crammed full of handspun wool and towels for drying knitted things I'd just hand washed.

After spending the better part of a day asking myself the three craft questions and being really fierce about getting rid of things I only felt I should love, the filing cabinet is once again totally free (possibly for fabric, if I can find a good table for my sewing machine nearby?)

And the secondary storage cupboard looks like this:

Okay, it's not going to make the cover of a magazine - but isn't it neat and tidy?  And this in spite of my realizing once I was looking at all that crazy amount of fiber and yarn and fabric that I really, really love working with felted wool and didn't want to get rid of any of it.  I did dispose of some, because I knew there wasn't space for it all, but I kept the best.

Here's what's inside all those drawers and baskets (you can click on the image to make it bigger):

As you can see, I separated out the yarns by what I wanted to weave with, and what I reach for only in particular situations.  Evidently I need to spend some time looking for knit and crochet patterns that make the most of scratchy wool yarn, since I seem to have kept rather a lot, ahem.

The top of the cupboards though - that's my favourite:

I've started soaking my handknits in the washer in lingerie bags, then spinning them dry, so I don't need to keep all those towels here any more.  And there's space in the primary storage cupboard now for my handspun yarn, so the basket that used to hold them now holds empty project bags, ready to accommodate the next yummy pair of socks or hat.

Probably in about a week I'll suddenly realize I have a use for something I sent away, but when that happens I'll take myself right over to one of these two cupboards and distract myself with something else.  I expect there's about two years' worth of knitting in here, minimum, if I don't buy anything new - and that means it'll be a long time before I'll have to regret cleaning up.

And that's me for today.  I promise I won't be so long-winded next time!  And also, that I'll have pictures of actual knitting.  Take care of yourself and I'll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

A tiny bit of knitting (and another week off)

This week marked huge progress on the home front and even a teeny bit of time for some knitting, including the finale of the mystery Thing I kind of abandoned last December but which has turned out to be a cowl.

I find it very pretty, both outside out and inside out:

and I will probably never knit another because even though this stitch is amazing for turning a variegated yarn like Manos del Uruguay Silk Blend into subtle stripes, I've used it on a few different things and it's gotten kind of old.

You'd think that would also be true for socks but No. 

I've made little bits of progress on all of the ones I have on the go, though I do still have one single entry that hasn't made its heel yet, and I could show you lots of pictures of those if the few I had time to take had worked out.  For example this one, which I took on the ferry to the Toronto Island this morning, would have been awesome if what I was showing off was the mechanism on the random stroller parked nearby:

Thank goodness for knitting, because some time before I took this picture I was in the very front of a group that was cut off from a ferry that filled up before it ran out of customers.  (In case you're wondering how much sock one can knit in such a situation, it's from the very beginning of the gusset to close to the end.)  Having knitting meant I didn't mind standing still in a huge crowd for thirty minutes, unlike the lady next to me who jumped up and down and stamped her feet in frustration even though I am pretty sure she wasn't a whole lot younger than I am.  This, friends, is the difference that knitting makes. Go socks!

The Island was gorgeous today though, leafy and beautiful and full of people happy to be there.  

Also, full of very pretty treetops and architectural bits.

In spite of a few little escapes like this and even some breaks to watch movies (like the silent version of Ben-Hur which was fantastic and Le Mans, which might as well have been silent for all its dialogue and which I also, unexpectedly, loved) I am really tired of the house overhaul and just want it to be done already.  I miss all my old routines, not least of them having at least a little time for blog-writing every day. 

Still, there's no point in coming this far and stopping, so I'm going to finish the job and try to squeeze a new free hat design into the gaps.  After all, fall is coming to my part of the world, and I haven't done any new patterns in ages.

So: I hope you'll bear with me for one more week, and I will see you here next Monday!  Take care of yourself and I hope you get up to a really nice crafty thing while I'm gone.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My summer break, so far

Well, I'm still in the depths of the basement sorting out stuff... I guess it was a little ambitious to think I could take care of this mess in a mere week, after all.  Let's try for normalcy to start again next Monday, okay?

Meanwhile, here are some things I have been doing on my summer not-vacation.

Giggling over this very timely entry at zenhabits.  It's like the sanitized version of my life right now, to the point of hilarity.  Ten minutes a day to clean up just one little area?  I've been cleaning up one little area of my tiny house for about a year now, and not one of them has taken ten minutes.  Thirty, minimum, and I have just as many little areas to clean up now as I did when I started.  Maybe I need to stop acquiring things in between, like yarn and fabric and mail and groceries? 

(nah.  Especially not the yarn thing.)

Trying not to feel pressure about the fact that I have another new skein of sock yarn in the house and four pairs still on needles.

I love, love these colours.  I know the name is 'summer evening' but can you imagine how awesome the purple and green would be on Halloween with a good old fashioned witchy costume?

Taking pictures of clouds.

There are a lot more where this one came from... I'm getting kind of obsessed with how beautiful clouds are and have been kicking myself every time I go out without my camera, which is happening less often because I kick pretty hard.

Taking pictures of other stuff I like, since I happen to have a camera with me so much right now.

This completely uncluttered condo entryway, for example.  sigh

Admiring seriously bright and cheery birds.

Eating gelato with friends from April's Italy trip.

Well, that only happened once, but it was fabulous.   That purple one at the bottom left?  Blueberry and pomegranate!  I know, right?  SO delicious.

And generally panicking about whether or not I will ever get caught up on this house, let alone before Ray, my amazing contractor, comes to do a bunch of repairs in and around the messiest places.  GAH.  I think I have another ten days before that happens.  Deep. Breath.

What I have not been doing is knitting.  How bad it is:  I can see twisted stitches and/or cables even in tree bark.

I so have to finish this job.

And on that note, I will get back to the salt mines.  Take care of yourself and with luck and diligence I will see you again next week!