Friday, January 31, 2014

A return to weaving

I don't know whether you remember that last scarf - the one that took just one evening to make, right before Christmas?  Well, that scarf made me think I should get the loom out again and give weaving another try. 

This time, to make it easy on myself, I chose two skeins of self-striping yarn from Twisted Fiber Art in the exact same colourway, and hoped that I'd get a nice plaid effect with zero effort.

I made setting it up a priority for one day early in January, and then I ran out of time to play and set it aside.  This is Velvet, by the way, a club colourway that may yet be available in the regular shop, on the sport-weight Playful base, which is available all the time and makes for great socks.

It took another week before I could so much as get the shuttle filled with yarn and a start on the actual fabric.

(and then I ripped back three times, trying to get it started professionally enough to justify the effort.)

Eventually things got going pretty smoothly, and I could see that this was going to be another superfast scarf.

Still: it was a surprise to suddenly find myself at the end!

Especially given that I was going to be able to stop at exactly the opposite colour shift I'd started with, for a perfectly symmetrical stripe in the finished product.  Go me!

Alas, I still managed to get lumpy sides in spite of keeping everything tight and crisp on the winding end of things.  And I'm a bit worried that the weave is too loose generally to keep the yarn from getting everything pushed out of place and messy.

Still: done, in just 2.5 hours of weaving!  This, my friends is a process worth perfecting.

Meanwhile, I can't help thinking this particular scarf would make a pretty fantastic table runner.  So matchy.  Stay tuned for the glamour shots of the finished scarf - I think those deserve good outdoor light, don't you?

And that's me till Monday. Thanks for spending time with me this week and I hope you have a wonderful crafty weekend!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A sweater for a teapot

Is it January 31st yet?  Heh, didn't think so.  Just thought I should call attention to that fact, because I'm about to show you my completed goal for 2014.

It's true - I actually knit the tea cosy!

I decided in the end that I really love the brown yarn best, but I'm not ruling out the more colourful option because I have a larger teapot that is otherwise exactly the same as this one.

For now though, the brown yarn is such a great match for the kitchen counter.

The pattern for this tea cosy was totally made up as I went along.  I did take measurements first, and I did do a gauge swatch - I even started to write up notes to follow - but once I started knitting I kind of couldn't bother going on with them.  Instead I decided to add in some ribbing not long after I'd left off the first bit of it, because there was no other way to make a thick fabric that followed the curve of the pot, simultaneously.

I like the Art Deco feel of the ribbing as it reaches down into the middle of the pot at the sides.

But I especially like the way there is a large patch of stocking stitch just where my hand rests while I'm pouring.  The way stocking stitch feels in this yarn (the Jacob Alpaca blend from Toots LeBlanc) is the best thing about it.

That's why I probably won't put the cosy on purl side out...

even though I really, really love the way the purl side looks.  It's pretty much a million times better, isn't it.

Still: nice problem to have, don't you think?  And it's so very nice to have a warm little sweater on my teapot.

Hope you have some nice problems today too and I'll see you tomorrow!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The socks with unseeable stripes: finished and functional

In the midst of a thousand unfinished knitting projects (there are two sitting on my desk at this very moment) it's sometimes nice to look at one that's done.

At least, I assume that's the attraction to looking at pictures of knitted objects.  That, and that they're often so pretty?

I don't know about you, but I love looking at other people's work... seeing the colours they put together, the patterns they chose, the ways they found to photograph them.  It makes me wish I could be more creative with my finished sock photos but let's face it: there are only so many ways to take pictures of socks, and after you've knit the first two dozen pairs it's hard to make those few approaches seem like fresh ones.

Thankfully, one can always rely on the gorgeousness of the project in question.  In this case - as always, a heavyweight mohair/romney blend from Stoddart - we have orange with a little yellow so barely off the spectrum from orange as to have been practically invisible as I worked.  The detail stands out a little more now that they're done, but overall, these are probably the most subtle of all the socks I knit last fall.

I don't think of myself as an orange person, but I do love orange socks. They look so fiery, and if it's cold enough out to want to wear heavy socks, it's cold enough to like being reminded of cosy crackling fires even if they are in close proximity to your toes.

Also I just love wearing wool when I'm cold.  Isn't that stuff amazing?  Unless you're allergic to it, of course.  So glad I'm not.

There's something else for me to be glad about at the moment and I'll show you what it is, tomorrow!  See you then and in the meantime, stay warm and have a great day.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Cat toy knitting

When visiting the owners of cats, there is much to be said for bringing a little present for them.   The cats, I mean, because there are some seriously cute cat toy patterns on Ravelry.

My own stand-in cat, Molly, tested out the end result at length for today's post so - thank you, Molly.

I knit this pattern in a dishcloth-weight purple cotton: it's Sheila Ralston's Under Door Two-Cat Toy, which was published at Fun Things To Do While You're Waiting.  (incidentally, that is a really fun blog you will want to check out if you're a crafty person.)  The idea is that you slide the I-cord under a door, then let the cats try to pull one end toward them from either side of that door.  As one pulls, the other watches his/her prey get away, and the game gets very interesting indeed.

Sheila's pattern is super simple and cute, but I cast on the day before I was traveling - which means no time for extras like stitching up knits - and I couldn't find my vast collection of jingly bells to stuff inside, so I adapted it a bit.

First up, I knit in the round instead of flat, so as to save time on seaming.  That made life so much easier, because I could stuff the ball as I went along and then knit the closure.  The I-cord that connects the two balls holds the stuffing inside at one end, and the cast on and cast off holds it in at the other.

Owing to the lack of jingly bells, I decided to use a strip cut from an emergency blanket I had handy.

These silvery sheets, available at any hardware/camping type store and I think dollar stores too, are inexpensive, super compact, and popular with runners at the end of a race or marathon.  They also make a krinkly noise like tissue paper.  Perfect for a pouncy cat.

I knit up almost to the end of the first ball, then started stuffing in the blanket...

... and when it was all set, I just knit onward and closed off the ball.  Later, I sort of squeezed and squished the ball to get the blanket stretched out into the corners so it would look round, though the end result is more like a garlic bulb.

Then it was I-cord time, and when that was done I thought maybe I would make the other half into a strawberry shape because I was running out of yarn and knew I'd changed the first ball enough from the pattern that I'd never get the second one to look the same anyway.  To make the change, I just decreased fewer stitches per round and put more rounds in between the decrease ones. 

You can improvise this pattern pretty completely and still get a good cat toy, I found.

To run in the ends since I couldn't get at the inside any more, I duplicate stitched a few knit stitches, then ran the needle up through the inside to the other half of the ball, and without pulling too tightly beforehand, I did some more duplicate stitches near the edge of the I-cord.  That makes a very solid finish that you really can't see.

Molly seemed to like it very much...

and she was very nice about letting me take it back so I could give it to some real-live fellow kitties, even if she was a bit surprised when I suggested that.

Good cat, Molly.

Tomorrow, I've got another Very Special finished knit to show you, so I hope you can drop in again.  Have a great rest of the day in the meantime!

Monday, January 27, 2014

While-U-Wait knitting

Even a minimally-heated train station waiting room is an excellent place for knitting.

Recognize these socks?  They're the ones in gorgeous but now-discontinued Viola yarn I so bravely started lo these many months ago (like, 18 maybe?) and then stopped working on because they were coming out smaller than my usual size and I didn't know how many rounds to do before starting the toe.  Yes, I am logical.

A 'knitting while waiting' story

This past weekend, I went off on a little train holiday to Stratford, Ontario.

If you've never been to Stratford, you probably don't know what a beautiful place it is, especially in the warmer months of the year when the Stratford Festival is open.  It's a very compact and walkable community with gorgeous parkland and swan-filled river at its heart, in addition to the theatre and all the Bed and Breakfasts and restaurants serving patrons of same.

It's still pretty in winter, but there can be rather a lot more snow.

Which explains why I opted not to sit out on my balcony at the Duggan Place Heritage Inn.

During a happier part of the holiday, I even managed to buy some knitting supplies, owing to their being two yarn stores right downtown.  Thank you, Knitmap!

I bought this yarn from Estelle for absolutely no good reason from String Fever on Ontario Street, but yarn frolicking is also an option at Close Knit Quality Yarns, on Wellington.  (if you're waiting for a pattern for my handspun hat, you'll be happy to know that this yarn is about the right weight for making one.  I'll keep you posted.)

And let's not forget chocolate, easily procurable at either Rheo Thompson or at Chocolate Barr's, where I bought this sweet gift for a neighbour:

Pretty sure that is the cutest bird in the world.

On our last evening though, it was becoming clear that there was storminess afoot.

This tree, which astonishingly was enough taller than the very large house to be visible through the 3rd floor skylight, kept swaying.  And there were so many clickings and gustings going on while it did so, I was pretty sure we were in for it.

The next morning revealed several inches of snow blocking all the paths and sidewalks, making the trip to the train station a bit of an adventure, and when we got to the station we discovered that our train would be perhaps 30 minutes late.  Word was that heavy snow on the tracks was preventing the trains from running, and that a plow would be needed to clear the way from London, where our train was trapped, to Toronto.

For the next little while, we watched the numbers on the arrivals and departures board change.  40 minutes late - no, only 35 minutes late. Wait, let's say an hour and ten minutes.  Okay, maybe another 45 minutes from now.  Sometimes we'd go to look at the board and see the numbers change right in front of us.  It got pretty depressing, even though we did get to watch the snowplow leave Stratford for the rescue in London, leaving mounds of snow in its wake.

Fortunately, I had my knitting (plus two slices of leftover pizza from the incomparable Pazzo in a cooler bag, which came in handy as our wait stretched out over lunchtime.)

As I continued knitting, I snuck a lot of shy glances at a woman in the other half of the room who was making the. most. beautiful. something I have ever seen.  I think it was a sock.  It was a colourblock knit - several inches of brown, then of an earthy grey, then of a rich wine red, and the red section was a 2x2 ribbing, which I think is just genius because the sock would stay snug without your having to go crazypants doing 6-8 inches of straight ribbing.  And where each colour changed, there appeared to be one round of a fourth colour, something very dark, to make a border.  So elegant! The whole thing appeared to be knit in heavy fingering. Just stunning, both in terms of design, and also of my being able to see all of this from where I was sitting.  Ah, if only I had been brave enough to go over and ask about it... but before I could work up the nerve, she had given up waiting and left the building.

Meanwhile, I worked diligently away and got my sock onto the heel flap.

Outside, the snow started again, and I reminded myself that the people taking our place at the bed and breakfast for that night had had to cancel owing to the highways being closed... so there was space for us to come back if necessary.  In other good news, the vending machine in the station had not yet exhausted its supply of sustenance.

Because you know how hungry a chompy sock gets as it's turning around into a gusset.

And the board went on looking pretty much like this:

Then suddenly - we could hardly believe it!  The snowplow came back, with our train not at all far behind.  Yay!

Sitting down on those comfy upholstered seats with heat zooming out of panels into the cosy train car was pretty much heaven.  Outside, the storm continued:

And inside, I carried on with my sock.

Because of course, train rides are especially perfect for knitting.

Tomorrow, I have a cute knit to show you.  For now: still warming up and catching up from my unexpectedly long break!  I sure hope your weekend was just peaceful without all the cold and wind and waiting.

(ps: the other one of this pair of socks is already finished, so it's just possible the two might go on active service before their two-year anniversary of being started.  yay!)

Friday, January 24, 2014

Three approaches to evolution yarns

Cleaning out the yarn cupboard can produce some really amazing surprises, especially if you have a dysfunctional memory or are highly skilled in Denial (hello, that's me, plus a little from door number one.)

Apparently in a previous Twisted Fiber Art club signup I asked for three different rovings dyed in an evolution - which is to say, a colour that slowly shifts from A to B to C, rather than in a perky A-B-C, A-B-C, A-B-C sequence or some other variation.

I am pretty sure I did this 'for a change', and perhaps even to make myself knit different things.  But the fact is, evolutions are a very specific sort of material.  You can't, for example, with just one skein knit something in a pair that is going to come out perfectly symmetrical - because you will have A and a bit of B for one of them, and some more B plus some C on the other.

If you are a symmetrical person (hi again!) this will drive you absolutely bats.  And that means that an evolution will force you to make singleton projects - hats or cowls or, most often, shawls.  Shawls from evolution-dyed yarns are hugely popular and so, so pretty.

Which is nice, but I don't wear shawls.  I mean, I have lots.  I've designed several and knit other people's designs and I love them, truly, but they aren't me and even worn as scarves, they just don't work for me... probably because I keep knitting in colours I'm not wearing the day I reach for those shawl-scarves.  And all that explains why all three braids have been lurking in my stash cupboard.

Until now.  Dabnabbit, I want to clear out that cupboard!  So I went ahead and prepped all of them.  Let's start with Berry:

This cute colourway drifts through purples and blues and pinks, and it is promising me to work well as fingerless gloves provided I've divided it evenly for a shot at two small skeins of matching evolutions.  I'll aim for sport weight and hope for the best.

This one is called Wilderness and I can't for the life of me think why I didn't order more of this in yarn at the end of that club because WOW.  I divided the braid into two and I'm going to go for bulky with a gorgeous autumn-friendly cowl in mind.  Or... maybe another handspun hat.

This one is Velvet, and I can only assume that my love for Wilderness was temporarily hijacked by Velvet because I have a lot of it in my stash. Without thinking, I bought two skeins of it in a DK weight yarn plus the Apricot contrast, and two more skeins of it in a sport weight plus the Apricot contrast, as well as the original braid, and that is just crazypants.  Also that is a lot of yarn.  I made a hat, a cowl, and a woven scarf, and that's just with the DK... and I still have a little more of that, without touching the stuff in Playful.  Gah!

So the plan here is to spin the roving into a sport weight evolution - one of them from A to C, the other from C to A, and then weave a scarf with the Apricot non-handspun yarn serving as the very stable contrast.  Ideally, the Cs will meet in the middle and I will look like a genius.

Hey, it could happen, right?  But you know what will happen for sure: me being back here again on Monday.  Hope I see you then and in the meantime, have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Subtle storage for craft paper mayhem

Today, let's take a quick break to admire this bookshelf, with its calming and simple black and white motif.

Black and white make a great decorating base, because you can throw a winning selection of other colours at them and they will just ground it.  I spent time over the holiday in a space that is black with a lot of white plus hits of red and sagey green, and wow: so relaxing.  Not to mention a perfect backdrop for the majority of seasonal decorating events.

But the other good thing about black and white is that it's super easy to buy storage accessories in those non-colours, and then mix and match it all up.

My bookshelves are from IKEA, nothing fancy.  That black blob up in the left hand corner?  That's a magazine tote I bought in an off-price designer decorating store (HomeSense, to my fellow Canadians) and there's a second one of them on the other side of the shelf for balance.  The floral black and white box is meant for photographs - also cheap, also from HomeSense.  The rest? it's Martha Stewart desk storage, bought at Staples.

Let's just take another look at the lower left corner there - what looks like two stacked boxes.

They aren't stacked boxes.  They're stacked desk trays by Martha Stewart, turned to face away so the mess inside them doesn't spill out into the psyche of anybody in this room.

IKEA bookshelves are so deep, you can get away with storing 12" x 12" scrapbook paper in these things and nothing so much as curls when the trays are pushed into place.  I can even hide that industrial-weight hole punch!

Just like with the black magazine totes - they hold binders and report covers and file folders, by the way - the other side of the shelf is balanced out with a matching pair of stacked desk trays.

These ones hold paper scraps for smaller projects, and pull-out trays for ribbons and other odds and ends. (the lined box is another desk thing from HomeSense, bought about a year before the rest.  told you it's easy to mix and match!)

I also have some Martha Stewart plain white boxes with lids stacked up there, for storing glue sticks and markers and other fun supplies, and Martha Stewart trays for corralling a single hole punch and more clips and stickers and tags.

The upshot is, you can stash a ton of crafty stuff not just invisibly, but conveniently.  That's really the best part: everything in one place, right where you're most likely to be using it.  Saves you so much time, which you can turn around and use for making things.

Especially things for wrapping and gifting special knits, ahem.

Hope this is a helpful step back from our usual menu of knitting delights.  Tomorrow: back to yarn!  Or the making of it, at least.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Warm knits: the washing machine socks, complete

On a cold day, boy are you ever glad you spent the hottest day of summer knitting thick, warm, mohair blend socks.

I was sure that the heavier I made these Stoddart socks - you know, the ones that blend organic-raised Romney wool with organic-raised mohair and then sit in dye baths created by the colour genius Silvia - the warmer my feet would be, and I was right.

These boot socks are way warmer than the ones I made with the sport-ish weight yarn, and the much shorter, though solid-coloured, legs.  They're not quite as thick as actual shoes, nor are they as fully functional as slippers, but they sure do a great job around the cold floors in my house.

note the crazy mess around the stripes at start-of-round

Inside my boots: not so much as it turns out.  My unlined Blundstones are just a tiny bit too small to accommodate this much yarn, and my other two pairs (rubber ankle boots for slushy days, knee length monster polar things for extreme cold) are too warm to need them.

And frankly, I'm fine with that.  It means that on days when I'm working entirely from home, or on nights when I just want to get my feet into something comfy for a few hours before bedtime, I can pull on a pair of these cuddly socks and admire them without any other footwear on to block my view.

(even if they are blue and green with that crazy splash of pink...  but hey, if I hadn't done that, they'd never have been long enough, you know?)

Stay warm today and I will see you tomorrow!